Archive for December, 2008

My favourite poker bluff of all time: Phil Ivey at his best

Posted in Poker on December 24, 2008 by thebigsmoke
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Comic Book Round-Up

Posted in Comics on December 14, 2008 by thebigsmoke

I had a particularly messy work Christmas party on Friday, so spent most of yesterday reading comics and nursing my hangover. Here are my thoughts on all my recent reads.

Final Crisis 5 (of 7)
By Grant Morrison, J. G. Jones, Carlos Pacheco, Marco Rudy and Jesus Merino

Ah, the title I currently love to hate the most.

I have to admit, I did have a moment where I thought, Wait, could I have been wrong about this? Could Morrison turn it all around and deliver in the final few issues? I was actually sort of pleased with the Green-Lantern-on-trial scene, because I love seeing Hal Jordan going head to head with the Guardians like that. At the end of the scene, when he was told he had 24 hours to save the universe, it seemed like perhaps the title was finally heading in the right direction. Then everything unravelled to become another disastrously confused mess of a comic from Grant Morrison.

Final Crisis: Revelations 4 (of 5)
By Greg Rucka and Philip Tan

The only thing to recommend this particular comic is that Huntress is in it. I’ve always liked Huntress. I think I had a sort of a crush on her when I was seven.

Superman: New Krypton Special (‘New Krypton’ Part 1)
By Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates, Pete Woods, Gary Frank and Renato Guedes

I was on the fence with the ‘New Krypton’ storyline, just as I was with the ‘R. I. P.’ arc over in the Batman books. I made the executive decision not to follow ‘R. I. P.’ and I haven’t regretted it, despite the fact it seems to have picked up a fair bit of media attention and is wildly popular. I just couldn’t face following another big storyline masterminded by Grant Morrison.

Since ‘New Krypton’ is the brainchild of Geoff Johns, and since James Robinson has been doing a stand-up job on Superman, I thought I would give ‘New Krypton’ a go.

This special is a mixed bag, simply because of the diversity of creative talent involved. The early pages, with Clark Kent at his father’s funeral, then taking his frustrations out on Brainiac, are pretty special.

Superman 681 (‘New Krypton’ Part 2)
By James Robinson and Renato Guedes

I enjoyed James Robinson’s writing on a couple of Superman books recently, and loved his We3-inspired characterisation of Krypto, so was happy to follow along as he writes his half of ‘New Krypton’. Krypto makes another appearance in this issue and I have to admit that was probably my favourite bit. By the way, you should check out We3 if you haven’t already. It was written by Grant Morrison back when he could still write and is simply stellar.

Adventure Comics Special featuring The Guardian (‘New Krypton’ Part 3)
By James Robinson and Pere Perez

Almost completely superfluous to the whole ‘New Krypton’ storyline and a bit of a waste of time.

Action Comics 871 (‘New Krypton’ Part 4)
By Geoff Johns and Pete Woods

Krypto is on the front cover of this issue, but sadly doesn’t make it to the interior pages. There’s some good characterisation of Lex Luthor, though, and Doomsday gets torn to pieces by the citizens of New Krypton.

Supergirl 35 (‘New Krypton’ Part 5)
By Sterling Gates annd Jamal Igle

I just realised the covers to parts 2, 4 and 5 of ‘New Krypton’ join up to make one big Alex Ross painting. That’s actually kind of cool!

I tend to try to avoid Supergirl, but made an exception and was pleasantly surprised by this issue. The other Supergirl on the final page is obviously her friend, Thara Ak-Var, though.

Superman 682 (‘New Krypton’ Part 6)
By James Robinson and Renato Guedes

“Me am happy!” Bizarro is at his Frankensteinesque best in this issue.

Action Comics 872 (‘New Krypton’ Part 7)
By Geoff Johns and Pete Woods

The Creature Commandos are great, and bringing them back was a stroke of genius. They should be next in line after Krypto to get their own title.

Green Lantern Corps 30
By Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Solid stuff from Tomasi and Gleason, as usual.

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Magog
By Peter Tomasi and Fernando Pasarin

The weakest of the three Kingdom Come specials, partly because Tomasi hasn’t come to grips with the Justice Society of America the way Johns has, or even the way Ross has with Superman. Partly also because Magog is quite a boring character; he was in Kingdom Come and he is in Justice Society of America. Still, this is entertaining enough and was worth the read.

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Superman
By Alex Ross

A bit of an Alex Ross vanity project this one, but I was impressed. Obviously the artwork is stunning, but I thought the tale of Lois Lane’s death was sterling stuff as well.

Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom
By Geoff Johns, Alex Ross and Fernando Pasarin

Extra Geoff Johns-scripted Justice Society of America stories has to a good thing. The whole Gog thing heats up too, as the penny finally drops.

Justice Society of America 21
By Geoff Johns, Alex Ross and Dale Eaglesham

Dun dun duh! It all kicks off as Gog reveals his true colours. And Kingdom Come Superman punches a lightning bolt. Awesome!

Booster Gold 14
By Rick Remender and Pat Olliffe

After what I said about Chuck Dixon taking over the writing duties on this title in my last round-up, there’s been another switch and Rick Remender wrote this issue. Not even Starro can stop me from dropping this title now.

Secret Invasion 8 (of 8)
By Brian Bendis and Leinil Yu

Fantastic! What a finale! I do think Bendis borrowed heavily from the second volume of The Ultimates when it came to producing the battle to end all battles between the Skrulls and mankind, but I’m not going to hold it against him, since I loved The Ultimates and I loved Secret Invasion too.

It was great to see Hawkeye and Mockingbird, my favourite superhero couple, reunited. We’re one step closer to seeing the Great Lakes Avengers back together again!

And what about that ending, huh? It’s just like the Illuminati of villains! I can’t wait to see what Dark Reign and the Dark Avengers have in store.

Secret Invasion: Dark Reign
By Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev

So it begins. Bendis does conspiracy stuff so well and this is really a great springboard for future events in the Marvel universe. Personally, I’d like to see Tony Stark hit the bottle again, fall to new personal lows, then claw his humanity back again. Bendis, if you’re reading this, you can have that plotting idea for free.

The New Avengers 47
By Brian Bendis, Billy Tan and Michael Gaydos

I was so excited to see Hawkeye on the cover of this issue; he’s officially my second favourite superhero. Sadly, though, he doesn’t appear once in this comic. Not even in the background or anything.

Instead, this is a poignant story about what it is to be a parent and the importance of family. I feel so gypped.

Avengers/Invaders 6 (of 12)
By Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski and Patrick Berkenkotter

This title has the same creative team as Project Superpowers, but it’s turning out to be a better read (just about). Probably because the characters in Avengers/Invaders are already established and aren’t dependent upon Ross and Krueger to round them out.

Fantastic Four 561
By Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

This issue has more twists than a factory full or corkscrews. I saw a few of them coming, but there were plenty of surprises.

It’s funny how a show like Heroes can be massively popular, how superhero movies like the Spider-Man or Batman series can break box office records, but comic books are still generally looked down upon and considered to be for kids and geeks.

The thing is, though, Heroes and most superhero movies pale in comparison to a comic like the current Fantastic Four. This is very intelligent, exciting storytelling, and deserves to be hugely popular amongst the masses. Sometimes it can be hard to hide my bitter resentment of the world.

Uncanny X-Men 504
By Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson

A bit of a change to the creative line-up and not a single S & M incident in this issue. I do like Terry Dodson’s drawings, but I think it’s perhaps time for me to drop Uncanny X-Men if they’re not even going to have any more bondage.

There’s a hint in this issue they’re going to try to undo some of House of M and restore the mutant population in months to come. I hope that doesn’t happen, as I enjoy the mutant books suitably toned down.

Punisher: War Zone 1 (of 6)
By Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

I was standing in the comic shop, perusing the shelves, and my eye fell on Steve Dillon’s stolid cover to the first issue of Punisher: War Zone. I actually put issue 15 of Booster Gold and the Project Superpowers Volume 2 Prelude straight back on the shelves, picked this up, and made a vow to myself to try to stick to comics I know I will actually enjoy.

Garth Ennis’ violent, gross-out writing style can be a bit wearisome, but he does know how to write fun comics. Teamed up with Steve Dillon again (after their notable runs on other titles such as Hellblazer and Preacher), Punisher: War Zone seemed like guaranteed entertainment. I am happy to report it lived up to my expectations. Any comic which incorporates a chimpanzee tearing a man’s genitalia off has to be worth the read, and the quadruple amputee grandmother makes for a terrifying nemesis.

War Heroes 1 (of 6)
By Mark Millar and Tony Harris

Since I seem to be waiting forever and a day for the next issue of Kick-Ass (admittedly, I may have simply missed the latest issue on the shelves), I thought this new title might provide a bit of a Millar fix. This first issue isn’t much to go on, but it seems pretty promising.

The basic premise of War Heroes is that the U. S. government, in response to flagging support for the “War on Terror”, bestows superpowers on its army. The superhero factor boosts the popularity of the government and its aims, allowing them to invade Iran uncontested.

Millar has a gift for coming up with the sort of neat hooks which Hollywood producers love, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself watching a movie adaptation of War Heroes in a couple of years.

Project Superpowers 7 (of 7)
By Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Carlos Paul

Phew, it’s over.

What a shame this title, with all its nostalgic charm, turned out to be such a torturous reading experience.

Black Terror 1
By Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Mike Lilly

The glutton for punishment I am, I bought this spin-off from Project Superpowers. The thing is, I love the character of Black Terror. I mean, look at that painted cover from Alex Ross. How cool does he look there? He’s got a massive sword and there’s a skull and crossbones and everything. How could this comic fail to entertain? Not with any difficulty, apparently, because this could have quite easily been written by a pretentious 14-year-old.

The Umbrella Academy: God Save the President 1 (of 6)
By Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba

I enjoyed the first volume of The Umbrella Academy quite a bit, so I thought I’d climb on board for this second volume. It’s written by Gerard Way, from My Chemical Romance, which is sort of strange. Perhaps more rock stars will follow in his footsteps and become comic book writers. I bet Noel Gallagher could turn out a great Batman story. Or not.

My favourite superheroes

Posted in Comics on December 12, 2008 by thebigsmoke

In response to this, and in order of preference:

1. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

2. Hawkeye (Clint Barton)

3. Daredevil (Matt Murdock)

4. Silver Surfer (Norin Radd)

Comic Book Round-Up

Posted in Comics on December 1, 2008 by thebigsmoke

It’s that time again.

These are some of the newer comics I’ve been reading recently:

Final Crisis 4 (of 7)
By Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones

I am really struggling to get excited about Final Crisis. The best bits so far have been Geoff Johns’ completely incidental spin-offs, to the extent that it feels like they would have been better off not even bothering with the main title.

Final Crisis: Submit
By Grant Morrison and Matthew Clark

What a waste of my money. Hard to believe that Grant Morrison once wrote Arkham Asylum, isn’t it?

I’m unsure how much I should blame the increasingly dire Grant Morrison for the ‘Final Crisis’ fiasco, as it seems some fault also lies with the editors at DC who insist on getting around a table every six months or so and brainstorming a muddled mess to inflict on the comic book readers as the next “Crisis” event.

Final Crisis: Resist
By Greg Rucka, Eric Trautman and Ryan Sook

Mr. Terrific is, well, terrific, but was not enough to save this from being another mediocre book. This was the first time I’d read anything much about Checkmate, which I personally found somewhat interesting (the most intersting thing about Resist at least). Better than Submit, but that’s not saying much.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds 2 (of 5)
By Geoff Johns and George Perez

Why isn’t Geoff Johns in charge of ‘Final Crisis’? I mean come on, he’s obviously more capable than Morrison.

And why isn’t he writing an ongoing Legion series instead of sneaking them into the pages of Justice Society of America and Action Comics? I thought their appearance in Action Comics was superb and now he’s teamed up with the legendary George Perez for this ultra-hot mini-series. Geoff Johns gets me genuinely excited about the Legion, which I think is quite an impressive feat considering how ridiculously dorky they are.

I wonder if the Legion of Super-Pets will make an appearance at some point.

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns
By Geoff Johns and Shane Davis

Rage of the Red Lanterns is a lead-in to ‘Blackest Night’, which Green Lantern readers (myself included) are all very excited about. I can’t see what it has to do with ‘Final Crisis’, though, so what’s the point of putting it under the ‘Final Crisis’ banner? They should have made this a two part story in the ongoing Green Lantern title.

On another note, the angry space cat was probably the least terrifying villain I’ve ever seen in the pages of a comic. I mean, what the fuck?! Angry space cat??!

Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge 3 (of 3)
By Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

I said lots of good things about this mini-series in a previous round-up. This final issue wasn’t very climactic, but ah well, this series got me wanting to read The Flash again, so all credit to it.

Justice Society of America 19
By Geoff Johns, Alex Ross and Dale Eaglesham

Wow, so this Gog thing is still going on, huh? Do me a favour and wake me up when it’s done. It’s not that bad really, but come on, this storyline needs a boost.

Justice Society of America 20
By Geoff Johns, Alex Ross and Dale Eaglesham

Every time Obsidian makes an appearance, I think of Diabetes.

Booster Gold 13
By Chuck Dixon and Patrick Olliffe

Geoff Johns finished on this title with issue 10, but I read a ton of Chuck Dixon comics when I was a teenager and he was writing Robin, so figured I could give him a chance. The idea of Booster Gold travelling through DC’s history is such a good premise, I’m sure Dixon will be able to keep the title entertaining.

A story featuring Starro is a good start! Boy do I love Starro. The best Starro story I’ve ever read was Justice League Europe 26-28. They’re all good, though. I mean it, you can’t go wrong with Starro.

Secret Invasion 7 (of 8)
By Brian Bendis and Lenil Yu

The saga draws to a close with the penultimate issue of what has been a thoroughly worthy series.

The New Avengers 46
By Brian Bendis and Billy Tan

Villains, villains and then some more villians. The Hood is pretty damn cool. They should give him his own title.

The Mighty Avengers 19
By Brian Bendis and Khoi Pham

I’m not very interested in Captain Marvel, so I didn’t enjoy this comic much. I’ll be glad to get back to some regular stories. A few of these ‘Secret Invasion’ tie-ins have been great, but the sheer number is slightly unnecessary.

Thor 11
By J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel

Okay, I have to admit, I think it’s the art which has got me reading this title recently. I love Coipel’s detailed pencils. He’s one of Marvel’s most popular pencillers, so I guess the powers that be at Marvel are serious about making Thor a popular character again. Straczynski’s not doing a bad job on the writing, either, but it’s a bit too early for me to tell whether this is something worth getting excited about.

Uncanny X-Men 503
By Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and Greg Land

If you want freaky mutant dominatrix action, this comic has it in spades. Every issue is filthier than the last. They just need to throw some Nazis and sharks in there and it will be exactly like an evening of Channel Five programmes condensed into comic book form.

Project Superpowers 6
By Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Carlos Paul

I’ve already said enough about this title in my blog. I’ll be glad when the the first volume is over and done with, frankly.

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