Thursday, August 30, 2007

Not Another Great Escape...Really. No Escape.

Again, I fail to entertain the masses. There will be no Great Escape today, folks.

Sorry.

The shop is closed.

"No soup for you."

(And yes. That will be the only reference to that show on this blog.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New Comics - August 29, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Countdown #35 by J.G. Jones
DC Comics

I’d been missing those weekly covers by Jones on last year’s 52. It’s nice to see his work up on the stands again. While not always the most exciting of covers, they are composed flawlessly. Everything from where the figures are placed to the colors used is perfect. If I could do art half as well as this, I’d be very, very happy.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Amazons Attack! #6
Countdown #35
Wonder Woman #12
Five of a Kind: Wonder Woman and Grace #1
Batman Annual #26
Countdown to Adventure #1
Teen Titans #50
Local #10

Tangent Comics vol. 1 (TPB)

Watch for my opinion of this week’s comics in Comic Thoughts as soon as I finish the stack.

New Media - August 28, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week – I try to limit myself to once a week – I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here’s a taste of what has been added to my collection in the past week.

Books:
Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka [Whoo! Favorite Author!]
Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden
The Shotgun Rule by Charlie Huston

DVDs:
Heroes: Season 1 (TV series)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Stacks - August 27, 2007

The Stacks, a weekly list of all I’m currently reading, or watching on DVD. New materials added are underlined.

Books:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Dark Tower (Dark Tower book 7) by Stephen King
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukayaneko
On Writing by Stephen King
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories by Amy Hempel
Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
I, California by Stacey Grenrock Woods
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Bite by Richard Laymon
His Dark Materials – Book III: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Spook Country by William Gibson

Magazines:
Paste issue 32, June 2007
Corel Painter: Official Magazine #5

DVDs:
The X-Files: Season 6 (TV series)
Weeds: Season 1 (TV series)
Deadwood: Season 3 (TV series)
Futurama: Season 2 (TV series)
Black Snake Moan
The Replacement Killers
Spawn: The Animated Collection (TV series)
300
Rome: Season 1 (TV series)

Comics:
Blood: A Tale (TPB)
The Other Side (GN)
Beyond! (TPB)
Pearls Before Swine: Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My! by Stephan Pastis (Treasury)
Grendel Archives (TPB)
Grendel: Devil by the Deed (TPB)
Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S (TPB)
Fallen Angel vol. 1: To Serve In Heaven (TPB)

Look for reviews/thoughts of selected materials from The Stacks…when I finish something. Anything.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Comic Thoughts - Week of August 22, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of August 22, 2007. I have fallen so far behind that I am shortening my thoughts until I catch up on my new comics. I’ll simply rate the comics based on the writing and the art with the following scale:

Fantastic – Great – Good – Average – Mediocre – Poor

Birds of Prey #109:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Great

Countdown #36:
Writing – Good
Art – Average

Blue Beetle #18:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

Green Arrow: Year One #4:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

Batman #668:
Writing – Great
Art – Fantastic

Five of a Kind: Metamorpho and Aquaman #1:
Writing – Good
Art – Fantastic

The Immortal Iron Fist #8:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

And with that, I am current with my weekly comics. This week is shaping up to be sort of busy, so I may continue with these brief notes for another week. Thanks for the patience.

Comic Thoughts - Week of August 15, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of August 15, 2007. I have fallen so far behind that I am shortening my thoughts until I catch up on my new comics. I’ll simply rate the comics based on the writing and the art with the following scale:

Fantastic – Great – Good – Average – Mediocre – Poor

Amazons Attack! #5:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

Countdown #37:
Writing – Good
Art – Great

Catwoman #70:
Writing – Great
Art – Great

Black Canary #4:
Writing – Good
Art – Mediocre

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #55:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

Shadowpact #16:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

Robin #165:
Writing – Good
Art – Great

Five of a Kind: Thunder and Martian Manhunter #1:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

Checkmate #17:
Writing – Great
Art – Good

Casanova #8:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

Booster Gold #1:
Writing – Wow! Fantastic
Art – Old-school Fantastic

Killing Girl #1:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

Justice League of America #12:
Writing – Great
Art – Great

The Flash #231:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shrinking the Pile - August 24, 2007

pile (pil) n. 1. informal A large accumulation or quantity. 2. A whole lot of Josh – more than necessary, or healthy. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Shrinking the Pile is a record of my attempt to become a more healthy dude by losing a large accumulation of weight through exercise and a healthy diet.
---
Weight last week: 247 lbs
Weight this week: 244 lbs
Change of: -3 lbs

Whoops! I fell asleep last night before I was going to make this post. My bad.

This is another week where I didn’t exercise or watch what I ate. I think the reason I’m still seeing some weight loss is because I’m not snacking constantly throughout the day. I’ve been eating only my three squares because of being busy at work. This might only work for a few more weeks – at most – so I better get started with that pile shrinking plan of attack: walking, running, dieting, weight lifting, and biking.
---
Rat: It’s called “Box Me In.” I will sell them a cardboard box and tell them to shove themselves inside it until they see results.
Goat: That’s ridiculous.
Box Me In insert: A few days after sealing the box, you will become hungry. DO NOT BE AFRAID. The box is WORKING!
(Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trapped! for Another Week

I am trapped again, not free to escape. Depending on the amount of work I have this weekend, I'll try get some of the escapes typed up ahead of time so that I can simply post them on Thursdays instead of skipping this feature all together.

Again, I'm sorry that I do not have an adventure for today. Thanks for being patient.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Comics - August 22, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Zombies vs. Robots (HC) by Ashley Wood
IDW Publishing

Ashley Wood’s art and style have always fascinated me. And with a title like Zombies vs. Robots, it was a no-brainer of a choice. It’s an amazingly huge hardcover comic. I especially like the little crying baby the robot is holding in his hand. This was a purchase I hadn’t anticipated, but it was simply too cool a book to pass up. This was actually a great week for covers: Scott Morse had an art book released; Countdown #36 and Batman #668 also had nice cover art.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Birds of Prey #109
Countdown #36
Blue Beetle #18
Five of a Kind: Metamorpho and Aquaman #1
Green Arrow: Year One #4
Batman #668
The Immortal Iron Fist #8

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus vol. 2 (TPB)
Ultimate Spiderman vol. 17: Clone Saga (TPB)
Scrap Mettle: Fast Art by Scott Morse (HC)
Zombies vs. Robots (HC)

Watch for my opinion of this week’s comics in Comic Thoughts as soon as I finish the stack.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Media - August 21, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week – I try to limit myself to once a week – I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here’s a taste of what has been added to my collection in the past week.

Books:
The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Comics:
Fallen Angel vol. 1: To Serve In Heaven (TPB)

DVDs:
Serenity: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition
House: Season 3 (TV series)
Dexter: Season 1 (TV series)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Collection
Galaxy Quest
The Rocketeer
Tremors: Attack Pack (1-4)

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

The Stacks - August 20, 2007

Whoops! I completely forgot to post this yesterday when I was posting everything else. Sorry about that.

The Stacks, a weekly list of all I’m currently reading, or watching on DVD. New materials added are underlined.

Books:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Dark Tower (Dark Tower book 7) by Stephen King
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukayaneko
On Writing by Stephen King
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories by Amy Hempel
Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
I, California by Stacey Grenrock Woods
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Bite by Richard Laymon
His Dark Materials – Book III: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Spook Country by William Gibson

Magazines:
Paste issue 32, June 2007
Corel Painter: Official Magazine #5

DVDs:
The X-Files: Season 6 (TV series)
Weeds: Season 1 (TV series)
Deadwood: Season 3 (TV series)
Futurama: Season 2 (TV series)
Black Snake Moan
The Replacement Killers
Spawn: The Animated Collection (TV series)
300
Rome: Season 1 (TV series)

Comics:
Blood: A Tale (TPB)
The Other Side (GN)
Beyond! (TPB)
Pearls Before Swine: Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My! by Stephan Pastis (Treasury)
Grendel Archives (TPB)
Grendel: Devil by the Deed (TPB)
Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S (TPB)
Fallen Angel vol. 1: To Serve In Heaven (TPB)

Look for reviews/thoughts of selected materials from The Stacks…when I finish something. Anything.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Long Live the Super Friends

Isn't this the cutest little toy you've ever seen? It was so adorable I simply couldn't pass up buying it.

This the DC Super Friends Green Lantern toy from Mattel's new line of kid-friendly action figures. I found mine at Target for around $9.

So very, very cool.

A Townhome of My Own

The townhome developer signed off on my purchase agreement today! I am now the new owner of a townhome of my own.

Granted, it will mean I now live a tight life, but at least I do so in a bit of style. It's a very nice home, indeed.

I'm off to deal with the mortgage Thursday after work. It's just a meeting to go over my financing. It should all be good.

Yay! A home.

Comic Thoughts - Week of August 8, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of August 8, 2007. I have fallen so far behind that I am shortening my thoughts until I catch up on my new comics. I’ll simply rate the comics based on the writing and the art with the following scale:

Fantastic – Great – Good – Average – Mediocre – Poor

Batman #667:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Fantastic

Countdown #38:
Writing – Great
Art – Good

Green Arrow: Year One #3:
Writing – Great
Art – Fantastic

Black Adam #1:
Writing – Good
Art – Great

Punisher War Journal #10:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

The Incredible Hulk #109:
Writing – Good
Art – Great

X-Factor #22:
Writing – Great
Art – Great

Five of a Kind: Katana and Shazam #1:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

The New Avengers #33:
Writing – Great
Art – Fantastic

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Comic Thoughts - Week of August 1, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of August 1, 2007. I have fallen so far behind that I am shortening my thoughts until I catch up on my new comics. I’ll simply rate the comics based on the writing and the art with the following scale:

Fantastic – Great – Good – Average – Mediocre – Poor

Justice League Unlimited #36:
Writing – Good
Art – Average

Countdown #39:
Writing – Great
Art – Good

She-Hulk #20:
Writing – Great
Art – Good

Nightwing #135:
Writing – Good
Art – Average

Black Canary #3:
Writing – Good
Art – Great

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #7:
Writing – Great
Art – Fantastic

World War Hulk #3:
Writing – Great
Art – Great

Five of a Kind: Nightwing and Captain Boomerang, Jr. #1:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

Justice Society of America #8:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

Comic Thoughts - Week of July 25, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of July 25, 2007. I have fallen so far behind that I am shortening my thoughts until I catch up on my new comics. I’ll simply rate the comics based on the writing and the art with the following scale:

Fantastic – Great – Good – Average – Mediocre – Poor

Grendel: Behold the Devil #0: A nice primer to the story of the Grendel, Hunter Rose. The issue comes with a 4 page interview of creator/writer/artist Matt Wagner detailing the history of Grendel.

Countdown #40: A one panel appearance of the new Question – yeah! This is a fairly strong issue with great writing and average art. Jason, Donna, “Bob,” and Ryan still search for Ray Palmer. Piper and Trickster receive sanctuary from the Penguin. Mary continues to be angry. And Jimmy saves the day as Mr. Action.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 #5: The issue reminds me why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Even in the comic book format Joss Whedon is a master storyteller. This is the best single issue of a comic this year – probably won’t be beat, either. It was perfect down to the last beautiful page.

Green Arrow: Year One #2: The origin rolls on. Spectacular art by Jock.
“I should run. Hide. But that was the old Oliver Queen. That’s not who I am anymore. I’m a hunter. …And now I’m pissed.”
Wonder Woman #11: Pretty art as the Amazons continue to attack. A nice cliffhanger with a full page splash of Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.

Hawkgirl #66: A fitting end to a series that started out as Hawkman before changing guard. Still a big fan of the Hawks, I will continue to follow their adventures in the pages of the JSA and JLA comics.

All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #6:
Writing – Great
Art – Great

Blue Beetle #17:
Writing – Great
Art – Great

Batman #666:
Writing – Good
Art – Good

The Mighty Avengers #4:
Writing – Good
Art – Great

The Incredible Hulk #108:
Writing – Average
Art – Average

The Immortal Iron Fist #7:
Writing – Fantastic
Art – Great

Me, A Homeowner?

I am in the process of getting paperwork around to make an offer on a townhome. Exciting, I know.

I went out this morning with my mom's realtor and looked at a couple different properties in the Grimes/Johnston area. It didn't take long before I'd found two properties in the same general price range to decide between. In the end I passed up the basement and better future resale value for the more artistic (and not yet finished) townhome. So exciting!

Now I'm at the stage of feeling a bit nervous and anxious that the property doesn't get sold before I can make my offer.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Free Coffee

It turns out it is my lucky night. Or, so I was told when I attempted to purchase a coffee at the gas station on the way home from a movie tonight. The cashier simply told me it was free.

Not I fool, I said thanks and left. Hey, free coffee.

"I am McLovin" - A Superbad Review

Superbad is the most fun I've had a movie in a long time. The thing is just hilarious. You laugh so hard you can't even hear what is being said on screen and it's still hilarious.

Be warned, even though this is a movie about two seniors in their last couple of weeks of high school, it is a very adult comedy. It's crude, but not in the way most teen movies are crude. It's just a darn near perfect comdey.

As busy as I am, I will make time to see Superbad again in the theaters. If you need someone to go see it with, I'm your man. "I am McLovin."

Shrinking the Pile - August 17, 2007

pile (pil) n. 1. informal A large accumulation or quantity. 2. A whole lot of Josh – more than necessary, or healthy. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Shrinking the Pile is a record of my attempt to become a more healthy dude by losing a large accumulation of weight through exercise and a healthy diet.
---
Weight last week: 250 lbs
Weight this week: 247 lbs
Change of: -3 lbs

I wonder if stress burns calories? If it does, I may never need exercise again.

I’m very surprised I lost weight this week. I ate out most every meal. I did no exercise. Not that I’m going to judge this week as anything more than a fluke, but it is interesting.

I’m down for some long nights this coming week, so exercise most likely will not occur. I will try to make my focus my diet. It’s always good to have a goal.
---
Rat: It’s called “Box Me In.” I will sell them a cardboard box and tell them to shove themselves inside it until they see results.
Goat: That’s ridiculous.
Box Me In insert: A few days after sealing the box, you will become hungry. DO NOT BE AFRAID. The box is WORKING!
(Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What A Day

My new job has me swamped with work. Throw in the fact that I'll be townhome shopping with a relator this weekend, and I'm exhausted.

There will be no Great Escape tonight (sorry Neal, and this right after I begged for escape scenarios and you were kind enough to provide one). Sorry. If I am inspired (and not asleep) sometime this weekend, I may work on the newest escape. But don't hold your breath.

I'm off to bed early tonight. I have so much to do tomorrow it wears me out just thinking about it all.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Comics - August 15, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Killing Girl #1 by Frank Espinosa
Image Comics

If I hadn’t already seen this cover in some promotions for the new mini-series, I would have been pleasantly surprised to see it at the comic shop and instantly would have snapped it up. I’m not too familiar with Espinosa’s art, but his style is very reminiscent of Scott Morse’s amazing work. The dominant red coloring really catches your eye and pops. This cover simply kills.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Amazons Attack! #5
Countdown #37
Booster Gold #1
Five of a Kind: Thunder and Martian Manhunter #1
Black Canary #4
Robin #165
Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #55
Checkmate #17
Justice League of America #12
The Flash #231
Shadowpact #16
Catwoman #70
Killing Girl #1

X Isle (TPB)

Watch for my opinion of this week’s comics in Comic Thoughts as soon as I finish the stack.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Quick Reviews - Movie Catch Up

The Simpsons
What’s it say when the one character who doesn’t talk has the best lines in the movie? I really didn’t enjoy this big screen version of one of TV’s funniest families. The movie felt like nothing more than an overlong, under-funny TV episode. The baby Maggie did steal the show every scene she was in. I wouldn’t recommend this movie for viewing in the theater – wait for it to run on TV for free.
---
The Bourne Ultimatum
A fantastically made action film. There isn’t but a moment or two where Jason Bourne isn’t running or fighting for his life. I really enjoyed how this third movie reflected so much of the first movie. It felt like the story was brought full circle – with everything neatly tied up. I’m still going to have to give Live Free or Die Hard the nod for best summer action flick, but the two movies are very different. Just as Transformers is different, but still an amazing summer film.

Also, I want to note the score for this movie by John Powell. It’s amazing and well worth a listen.
---
Hot Rod
Moronic, but quite funny in more than a few parts. I mean, the whole point of the movie is Rod raising money to fight his dying step-dad in an attempt to gain his respect. The influence of the 80’s is heavy in this film. You’ve been warned. It’s a bit like Napoleon Dynamite doing stunts (and failing horribly at them). I would recommend this for a mindless diversion at the theater. It helps that Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, The Lookout)is hot and Ian McShane (Deadwood) is totally cool.
“What the hell! Is that a throwing star?”
Oh Rod, you are so boned.
---
Stardust
I was happy to find that I enjoyed this movie. I really liked the novel it was based on and hoped the movie would live up my expectations. Where the movie was most magical was in those moments that it remained truest to the original novel. The problem with adaptations – even the best of the lot – is that they invariably alter or omit some part of the original story. And if you loved the story – and in this case I did - you feel for those missing parts. All in all, this is a very good, straightforward fantasy flick.

Quick Reviews - Music Catch Up

Living with the Living by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Always a big fan of Ted Leo. Haven’t listened to this disc all that much, but it seems along the same line as his previous efforts. Nothing new, that is, but still good and rocking indie music.
---
Cigarettes & Gasoline by Emerson Hart
After seeing Hart live earlier this summer, I knew I had to own this disc. I was not disappointed. This one’s a winner.
---
End of Silence by Red
Not all that impressed. In fact, after only a few listens, I’m pretty sure it won’t get much playtime. However, I do enjoy “Breathe Into Me” – it was the reason I bought the disc.
---
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Score) by Nicholas Hooper
Best of the year find. This is an amazing addition to the Harry Potter musical universe. I enjoy the new rift on “Hedwig’s Theme” along with the super great theme created for the delightfully evil Professor Umbridge. An amazing score from Nicholas Hooper, an unknown to me, but a composer I’ll watch for.
---
rodrigo y gabriela by Rodrigo y Gabriela
Best of the year find. I simply love acoustic guitar music. Like piano music, it fascinates me when people can play instruments so well. There’s even a cover of Metallica’s “Orion.” Something for everyone.
---
The Bourne Ultimatum (Score) by John Powell
Best of the year find. This score moves. And rocks. It makes you feel as though you are Jason Bourne and fighting for your life. This is music that will get you pumped up. Amazing stuff.
---
Live from Austin, TX by Neko Case
A country/bluegrass style of music. Case has a haunting country voice. I saw her live with A Fine Frenzy and was pretty impressed. This album contains many of the same tracks she played at the show I saw. It’s an amazing thing when an artist makes me enjoy a song by Bob Dylan (“Buckets of Rain”).
---
The Singles Collection vol. 1 by Dropkick Murphys
I bought this to help complete my Dropkick collection. It includes many live tracks. I would pay quite a bit to see these dudes rock live. For now, this will have to do.
---
Brace Yourself by Dropping Daylight
Bought this one for the amazing piano playing on “Blame Me.” One song worth the price of the entire album. The other songs contain more of the same piano and are great. A worthy addition to my harder rock collection.
---
Anthem for the Underdog by 12 Stones
A little slower and softer rock from the band’s two previous albums. Still, I enjoy the lead singer’s voice and the band does rock. This is straight up Wind-Up rock.

New Media - August 14, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week – I try to limit myself to once a week – I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here’s a taste of what has been added to my collection in the past week.

Books:
Pen and Wash by Robert Jennings
Perspective by William F. Powell
They Hunger by Scott Nicholson

Comics:
Casanova #8
Justice League Elite vol. 1 (TPB)
Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S. (TPB)

DVDs:
The Last Boyscout
Smallville: Season 5 (TV series)

Music:
Live from Austin, TX by Neko Case
One Cell in the Sea by A Fine Frenzy (yes, I bought it again)
The Singles Collection vol. 1 by Dropkick Murphys
Brace Yourself by Dropping Daylight
Another for the Underdog by 12 Stones

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

My New Job

I did finally manage to land a job. A great job.

The thing is, I'm not going to talk about it here, on this blog. The purpose of this blog is to act as "a collection of thoughts about books, movies, comics, and TV." I know I've been commenting on my life from the inception of the blog, but in this instance I want to keep my professional life separate from my personal.

So yeah, I am very happy to have my job. Whoo!

A Realization

I am so far behind on my reviews and thoughts and posts in general that I have decided to simply compile a collection of lists to post. For some things that I've already started to write about, I'll just post what I've got and be done with it. For others I'll just name what I've seen or read - maybe add a quick sentence or two. I'll post these quick bits this week with the hope that next Monday, August 20th, I'll be back on track.

If you see anything that you would like to know more about, just post a comment and I'll write more/answer any questions.

I know it's a bit of a cheat, but with the new job and the massive amount of work involved, I will only fall farther and farther behind. It has always been my intention to stay current with my life, and right now I'm still back in July, review-wise.

It'll be nice to be back in the present day.

The Stacks - August 13, 2007

The Stacks, a weekly list of all I’m currently reading, or watching on DVD. New materials added are underlined.

Books:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Dark Tower (Dark Tower book 7) by Stephen King
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukayaneko
On Writing by Stephen King
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories by Amy Hempel
Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
I, California by Stacey Grenrock Woods
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Bite by Richard Laymon
His Dark Materials – Book III: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Spook Country by William Gibson

Magazines:
Paste issue 32, June 2007
Corel Painter: Official Magazine #5

DVDs:
The X-Files: Season 6 (TV series)
Weeds: Season 1 (TV series)
Deadwood: Season 3 (TV series)
Futurama: Season 2 (TV series)
Black Snake Moan
The Replacement Killers
Spawn: The Animated Collection (TV series)
300
Rome: Season 1 (TV series)

Comics:
Blood: A Tale (TPB)
The Other Side (GN)
Beyond! (TPB)
Pearls Before Swine: Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My! by Stephan Pastis (Treasury)
Grendel Archives (TPB)
Grendel: Devil by the Deed (TPB)
Alan Moore’s Complete WildC.A.T.S (TPB)

Look for reviews/thoughts of selected materials from The Stacks…when I finish something. Anything.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Decision

Home. I chose sleep.

I'm so very, very tired.

Torn

I'm torn. Do I go to a late movie, or do I stay home and get some rest? If I go to the movie (Rush Hour 3), then I'll end up with only 4-5 hours sleep before my day-long meeting on my first day of work. If I don't go to the movie I can catch up on some of the sleep that I've been getting precious little of since Thursday.

I love movies. I don't want to fall asleep on my first day of work.

Choices, oh choices.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, and Collective Soul in Concert

I just got back from listening to Counting Crows, Third Eye Blind, and Collective Soul in concert at Principal Park (home of the Iowa Cubs). I was there with Neal, Missi, and Megan, and it was a fun time.

The bands were all great. It was nice to hear some of the songs that were popular with me back in high school after such a long time of not hearing them much at all. Counting Crows gave the best performance, with Collective Soul coming in a close second. Third Eye Blind was good, but I just wasn't as into the performace as much as I was with the other two bands. It's probably because I knew fewer of their songs, and that makes a big difference.

This ends my music-filled past few days. Over the last 3 days I've seen 7 different bands perform. Not too shabby.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shrinking the Pile - August 10, 2007

pile (pil) n. 1. informal A large accumulation or quantity. 2. A whole lot of Josh – more than necessary, or healthy. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Shrinking the Pile is a record of my attempt to become a more healthy dude by losing a large accumulation of weight through exercise and a healthy diet.
---
Weight last week: 246 lbs
Weight this week: 250 lbs
Change of: +4 lbs

It’s that blasted Vitamin Water. It’s so tasty, but contains calories – which add up.

No, it’s simply that I still haven’t been exercising or watching what I eat.

One of these weeks it’ll kick in, that switch will be flipped, and I’ll start reducing that pile. Soon, I hope – for the sake of the world - lest I grow any larger.
---
Rat: It’s called “Box Me In.” I will sell them a cardboard box and tell them to shove themselves inside it until they see results.
Goat: That’s ridiculous.
Box Me In insert: A few days after sealing the box, you will become hungry. DO NOT BE AFRAID. The box is WORKING!
(Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Kansas City Bound

I'm off to Kansas City for music and gambling. I won't post again until I return Friday afternoon.

Shrinking the Pile will go up in the afternoon on Friday, so don't you all worry. You'll get your weekly fix of how fat I am.

Remember, if you are bored, you can always contribute some scenarios for Great Escapes.

Sucking In Fumes

I hate traffic. It's one of the many things I do not enjoy about driving - and I like driving. I would simply be happier if there was no one else out on the road, or in parking lots.

Today as I was driving to Johnston on the Interstate I manged to find myself stuck behind a large white truck burping smoke directly into my vents.

Gag. Me.

And I was stuck. All three lanes of traffic were full and flowing and I had nowhere to go. Even filtered through my car, the smell was awful. The joys of driving, I suppose.

The Pirate Escapes VIII

Here's how it works: the pirate is given five items - as varied and crazy as you can imagine - and a single scenario of peril to escape. From there, things get...interesting as the pirate attempts ANOTHER GREAT ESCAPE.

The Items:
1. Bar of soap
2. Safety pin
3. Hammer
4. Chopsticks
5. Direction sheet for Monopoly

The Scenario of Peril:
Lost in the woods at Rocky Mountain National Park. (Courtesy of Mom)
---
It’s not often that I find myself lost anywhere – I was born with an innate sense of direction. Sometimes though, when the mountains are high enough and the park is large enough, even I can find myself a bit…misplaced.

Luckily enough, I had the tools necessary to find the path to freedom.

As I’m sure not many of you are aware, the back of the direction sheet for the game of Monopoly contains a secret Masonic map of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The Masons love their secret maps – see National Treasure if you don’t believe me. And it makes sense if you stop to think about it. Monopoly is a game of luck and chance and treasure won by buying up real estate properties. Isn’t that the Masonic code?

To activate the map hidden on the backside of the direction sheet I needed a chemical agent to react with the invisible ink. I opened up the safety pin and jabbed it into the tip of my right index finger. The flowing geyser of blood that shot from my fingertip was just the agent necessary to unlock the secret of the Monopoly direction sheet.

Not wanting to risk an infection at my wound site, I used the bar of soap and a pool of water that had collected on a large leaf to rinse and clean my owie.

Now, armed with a map of the Rocky Mountain National Park, I set off over the mountain pass that would lead me to civilization.

But, this being the forest an all, I did have one last obstacle to overcome: a man-eating (seriously, he still had man bits hanging from his jaws) bear. Acting with the speed of a cougar, I rolled past the upright bear's slashing claws, landing in range of the bear’s planted feet. I drew out my chopsticks and hammer, and nailed that sucker down. I pounded a chopstick into each of the bear’s feet, firmly fastening him to the forest floor.

The bear howled in pain as he struggled to come after me. With his feet stuck, all he could do was cry in vain.

I easily scaled the mountain pass and was soon within sight of town. While I may - very rarely - find myself lost, I know that it will be no trouble for me to accomplish Another Great Escape, Pirate.
---
And that's how it is done. If you have a perilous scenario and five tools of escape to challenge me, please post them in the comments...and you will soon witness: Another Great Escape, Pirate!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New Comics - August 8, 2007

Cover of the Week:
X-Factor #22 by Pablo Raimondi
Marvel Comics

There weren’t any amazing covers this week. I could have put up the cover to Green Arrow: Year One #3, but I wanted to keep this gallery full of variety – not to say that the Arrow cover by Jock isn’t amazing, it is. Instead, I chose the cover to X-Factor for it’s muted colors and heavy shadows. There’s anger here, and some really well drawn hands (which are difficult to do right). It stands out on the shelf, and that’s really what I’m looking for in this whole Cover of the Week thing – a standout cover.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Green Arrow: Year One #3
Countdown #38
Batman #667
Five of a Kind: Katana and Shazam #1
Black Adam #1
Punisher War Journal #10
The Incredible Hulk #109
X-Factor #22
The New Avengers #33

100 Bullets vol. 11: Once Upon A Crime (TPB)
Scalped vol. 1: Indian Country (TPB)

Watch for thoughts or quick reviews when a comic requires the extra attention.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Simply Stunning Music: 2 Reviews -
Little Voice by Sara Bareilles

One Cell in the Sea by A Fine Frenzy

Little Voice by Sara Bareilles
I can’t even recall where I first heard about Sara Bareilles, but I do know that I’m tremendously grateful to have made this wonderful discovery. With a voice that blends a little Joss Stone, Leah Andreone, Fiona Apple, and Sarah McLachlan, Sara Bareilles is an amalgamation of many of my favorite female vocalists. There is not a bad song on the entire CD. Little Voice is anything but that, and one of the best albums of this year.

Solid Tracks: “Love Song” – “Vegas” – “One Sweet Love” – “Morningside” – “Many the Miles” – “Fairytale”
---
One Cell in the Sea by A Fine Frenzy
I’m in love. I have a major crush on Alison Sudol – the redheaded force behind the Frenzy. I think it was all over for me when I first heard her voice and marveled at her skills on the piano. It probably helps that she can write a catchy song, too. One Cell in the Sea is my favorite album by a female vocalist this year (just beating out Sara Bareilles’s Little Voice by a fraction of a fraction of an inch). I enjoy the album so much that it played daily multiple times while riding on RAGBRAI, and still holds sway over my CD player in the car.

And the best part? I’m to see A Fine Frenzy perform live in Kansas City on Thursday, August 9, 2007! This is a concert I cannot wait to see. There will be more on this later.

Solid Tracks: “Come On, Come Out” – “You Picked Me”“Rangers”“Almost Lover” – “Liar, Liar” – “Hope for the Hopeless”

Music Review -
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

by Tom Waits

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards by Tom Waits
This 3-disc collection of unused and B-side tracks is a great introduction to the genius of Tom Waits, or for fans of old, a “bonus features” collection to his last four or five albums. I’ve decided to break this review into three sections – one for each disc – because otherwise the 54 song collection is simply to massive to discuss and remain on topic. These three discs are Tom Waits, and if you don’t know him, you are truly missing out on something special.

Brawlers – This is the more rocking of the three discs. For fans, the songs on this disc most resemble those of Mule Variations and Real Gone. Some of Waits’ more political songs – songs with messages – appear here, too. These are your upbeat – in as far as Tom Waits can be considered “upbeat” – tunes, your hardcore tracks.

Solid Tracks: “Lie To Me” – “Fish In the Jailhouse” – “Lucinda” – “Road To Peace” – “Walk Away”

Bawlers – This is the disc of ballads and love songs – love Tom Waits style: tough and tender, heartbreaking and hidden-hopeful. For those of you in the know, this disc reminded me a lot of Alice and Blood Money.

Solid Tracks: “Long Way Home” – “Widow’s Grove” – “Little Drop of Poison” – “Fannin Street” – Take Care of All My Children” – “Young At Heart”

Bastards – In what I can only describe as “hobo-transient” music, this is the disc of Tom’s story songs. It reminds me of Depression era music, to some extent. This is the disc where you stop and listen. This is the music of your great-grandpa telling you tales of tragedy and woe, outrageousness and humor. This is the weird stuff.

Solid Tracks: “What Keeps Mankind Alive” – “Children’s Story” – “ Army Ants” – “Two Sisters” – “First Kiss” – “The Promise” – [bonus track 20]

Music Reviews -
Duality by Ra

Paper Walls by Yellowcard

Duality by Ra
I first saw Ra live a few years back as an opening band for Disturbed. They did a fantastic job that night and I’m surprised it took me this long to finally pick up an album of theirs. They have been getting quite a bit of airplay with “Fallen Angels” on Sirius satellite radio. In the mood for some rock, I decided to give Duality a listen. The disc starts out strong, but weakens near the end of the album. Overall, it’s an enjoyable experience. They rock along the same vein as Disturbed and Staind, but without the screaming, and instead include some Middle Eastern-esque sounds and style.

Solid Tracks: “Fallen Angels” – “Take Me Away” – “I Lost Everything Today” – “The Only One” – “Superman” – “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”
---
Paper Walls by Yellowcard
This is another solid release by the alternative band, Yellowcard. Paper Walls continues on with the band’s same signature sound – light punk/emo with a touch of the violin for sweet, sweet flavor. Some people criticize the band for sounding like every other light punk band out there – and the vocals do – but the violin and catchy tunes make Yellowcard stand slightly apart from the crowd. Paper Walls is far enough away that I have no problem listening to this disc over and over again.

Solid Tracks: “Shrink the World” – “Keeper” – “Light Up the Sky” – “Five Becomes Four” – “You and Me and One Spotlight” – “Cut Me Mick” – “Paper Walls”

Bleh! Track: “Dear Bobbie” – A horrible old person talks throughout this otherwise nice track. The stupid shaky voice simply ruins everything! This is my singular complaint with the album.

New Media - August 7, 2007

New media arrives in stores on Tuesdays, so once a week – I try to limit myself to once a week – I go shopping for new books, DVDs, and music.

Here’s a taste of what has been added to my collection in the past week.

Books:
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: A Pop-Up Book by Stephen King
Art Nouveau by Klaus-J├╝rgen Sembach
Spook Country by William Gibson

DVDs:
National Treasure
Grindhouse Experience (20 film collection)
Virtuosity
Wolf
American Dreamz
United 93
Rome: Season 1 (TV series)
Rome: Season 2 (TV series)

Software:
Corel Painter X

Comics:
Grendel Archives
Grendel: Devil by the Deed
Grendel Tales: Homecoming
Grendel: Devil’s Legacy
Gear

Music:
rodrigo y gabriela by Rodrigo y Gabriela
The Bourne Ultimatum by John Powell

Look for these materials to join The Stacks in the near future. Some might even sneak by The Stacks and end up mentioned here before you know it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Foo - "The Pretender"

There is going to be a new Foo Fighters album - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace - dropping September 25, 2007. I heard the first single - "The Pretender" - on my Sirius satellite radio the other day, and it was fantastic.

I like how the band's sound has evolved with each new record, not changing too drastically, leaving you to wonder if this is a whole new band entirely (I'm looking at you, Metallica). This is the original Foo, only better.

Keep your ears open, and your wallet ready for upcoming release. New Foo!

Kidnapped: The Complete Series Review

Kidnapped is yet another TV series that died way before its time. I am so happy that the entire 13 episodes were collected and released on DVD earlier this year.

The series focuses on the abduction of Leopold Cain, son of multimillionaire Conrad Cain, and the private specialists and FBI agents searching for him. The series has more twists and turns in its half-season run than any show I can remember watching.

With powerful and believable performances from Jeremy Sisto, Delroy Lindo, Timothy Hutton, Mykelti Williamson, and Dana Delany, you understand these characters’ struggles and the anguish in their search for the missing boy.

While the show is a slow build to the explosive final two episodes, each individual episode delivers enough story - action, dialogue, and intrigue – that you are captivated and hooked as the missing pieces fall into place.

The gunfight at the end of the 12th episode was a little staged, but huge gun battles aren’t the point of the show – intelligent, suspenseful writing is what its all about.

The final episode simply blew my mind. The reveal of the “villain” was – shocking. I kept shouting, “No way!” at the TV. It comes out of the nowhere, but makes total and complete sense. It’s simply an amazing episode.

The series ends with full resolution to the Cain storyline – something rare in shows that are cancelled early. It does set up a thread that would have continued if the series hadn’t been cancelled, but you feel satisfied with end, if not a little sad that you can’t see where these characters might have gone from there.

Just like Band of Brothers is the best war story I’ve seen, or the new Battlestar Galactica series is the best space show ever made, this is by far the essential kidnapping yarn. I cannot recommend this series highly enough. I’d go as far as saying it should be considered a TV classic.

And watch for Kidnapped executive producer/writer Jason Smilovic this fall on NBC’s remake of the Bionic Woman. Joining him is executive producer/writer David Eick from Battlestar Galactica - making Woman a must-see show this fall.

The Stacks - August 6, 2007

The Stacks, a weekly list of all I’m currently reading, or watching on DVD. New materials added are underlined.

Books:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
The Dark Tower (Dark Tower book 7) by Stephen King
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukayaneko
On Writing by Stephen King
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories by Amy Hempel
Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
I, California by Stacey Grenrock Woods
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
Bite by Richard Laymon
His Dark Materials – Book III: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Magazines:
Paste issue 32, June 2007
Corel Painter: Official Magazine #5

DVDs:
The X-Files: Season 6 (TV series)
Eureka: Season 1 (TV series)
Weeds: Season 1 (TV series)
Deadwood: Season 3 (TV series)
Futurama: Season 2 (TV series)
Black Snake Moan
The Replacement Killers
Spawn: The Animated Collection (TV series)
300
Rome: Season 1 (TV series)
National Treasure

Comics:
Blood: A Tale (TPB)
The Other Side (GN)
Beyond! (TPB)
Pearls Before Swine: Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My! by Stephan Pastis (Treasury)
Grendel Archives (TPB)
Grendel: Devil by the Deed (TPB)

Look for reviews/thoughts of selected materials from The Stacks…when I finish something. Anything.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Yes, I'm Still Here

I know, I know. I didn't post at all yesterday, and it's already late today.

Truth is I haven't been home much over the last couple of days. I've been over at my grandparents, out to movies, shopping, bowling - doing stuff.

I'm not too tired at the moment so I have myself set up in the living room in front of the TV watching DVD's hoping to catch up on all the reviews and notes I've taken over the past month and not yet posted. If I do manage to stay up and get this work done, you can look forward to a bunch of reading. Lucky you.

All I have tomorrow is garage building, and who needs to be awake to do that?!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Loser at Cards

I went over to my grandparents tonight to hang out and ended up playing cards with Ry, Steve, and Grandma and Grandpa.

I was a loser in both games we played - "Pitch" and "Up and Down the River."

Steve was the big winner of "Up and Down the River." He wanted to make sure I mentioned that. STEVE IS A WINNER!

The pirate...not so much. *shrug*

Shrinking the Pile - August 3, 2007

pile (pil) n. 1. informal A large accumulation or quantity. 2. A whole lot of Josh – more than necessary, or healthy. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Shrinking the Pile is a record of my attempt to become a more healthy dude by losing a large accumulation of weight through exercise and a healthy diet.
---
Weight last week: 246 lbs
Weight this week: 246 lbs
Change of: 0 lbs

And it’s all because I’ve still not created an exercise program and watched what I eat. It just seems like I’ve been busy every since returning from RAGBRAI. Granted, a lot of that time was spent watching DVD’s and reading…so there was time to do all I was supposed to do.

I do need to start running soon though if I’m going to complete that half-marathon (~13 miles) with Ry in October.
---
Rat: It’s called “Box Me In.” I will sell them a cardboard box and tell them to shove themselves inside it until they see results.
Goat: That’s ridiculous.
Box Me In insert: A few days after sealing the box, you will become hungry. DO NOT BE AFRAID. The box is WORKING!
(Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Different Kind of Escape -
Sneak Peek of New Show: Reaper

Instead of the regular Thursday feature, "Great Escapes," I am offering you a sneak peek at the series premiere of the new CW show, Reaper. I watched this premiere a couple of days ago and loved it. Aside from Pushing Daisies on ABC, this show is at the top of my list for new series to watch this fall.

Reaper is about a kid named Sam who is forced to act as a bounty hunter for the devil when he turns 21 as the result of his parents selling his soul before he was even born. Armed with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner and some moronic friends, Sam reluctantly accepts his new responsibility. Directed by Kevin Smith, this episode is a winner.

It's a quirky, funny, and smartly written new comedy. And it's all yours to watch 53 days before the series officially begins! Enjoy this different kind of escape.

Click on this link - the secret code is: 082507.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my dad's 47th birthday.

Happy Birthday, dad!

I miss you.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The (Not) Joy of Moving

Today I was over in Iowa City helping my best friends move into their new townhome.

I hadn't really forgotten how much I dislike moving furniture, but I was reminded today just how much fun it isn't.

The townhome isn't new - it has its share of scrapes and bumps - but it'll be more space than they did have, and closer to the things and people they do and hang out with, respectively. Of course.

Once they get things all unpacked - no envy there - and placed, it'll be home. For now.

Enjoy, you two!

New Comics - August 1, 2007

Cover of the Week:
Justice Society of America #8 by Alex Ross
DC Comics

Alex Ross has always painted the best looking superheroes. From way back in Marvels and Kingdom Come up through this run of covers on JSA, you have been able to feel the power and realism portrayed in his work. Looking ahead to the next issue – featuring Power Girl – I already know that it will take a huge talent to not guarantee his spot back in the Cover of the Week gallery.

This is a weekly list of the new comics I picked up at my local comic book shop, Mayhem Comics.

Black Canary #3
Countdown #39
Justice Society of America #8
Five of a Kind: Nightwing and Captain Boomerang Jr. #1
Justice League Unlimited #36
Nightwing #135
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #7
She-Hulk #20
World War Hulk #3

Batman: Year 100 (TPB)
Green Lantern: Wanted: Hal Jordan (HC)

Watch for thoughts or quick reviews when a comic requires the extra attention.

Picross DS Game Review -
Most FANTASTIC Game Ever

I am thoroughly addicted to the new Nintendo DS game I purchased yesterday: Picross DS. It’s such a simple little thing, but PACKED with fun!

You are given a puzzle – a grid reminiscent of Minesweeper – and some clues that you then work into a hidden image. There are no fancy graphics or crazy actions. It’s a straight-up, old-fashioned-feeling puzzle game. Almost like something you might find in a newspaper.

But whoo boy! – is it ADDICTIVE and fun. I’ve worked through the first handful of puzzles on Easy Mode, and cannot wait for my DS to recharge so that I can puzzle through some more.

At $19.99, this game is a STEAL. Everyone with a DS should own and play this game. NOW! (And if you don’t have a DS yet…well, what are you waiting for?! This is a great system with some truly original and fun games!)

Comic Thoughts - Week of July 18, 2007

Short bursts of thought about comics I purchased and read the week of July 18, 2007. (Sorry these are so late, but RAGBRAI, a job interview, and the final Harry Potter ate up a lot of my reading time.)

All Flash #1: This is the Flash I know and enjoy. Wally West is back! This issue acts as the bridge between the Bart Allen series and the start of the new Flash series (back with its original numbering – next issue: #231). Wally catches up with Bart’s killer, Inertia – an evil clone of Bart – and as much as he wants to kill him for what he’s done, Wally can’t. Instead, he slows down time for Inertia so that the villain will be forced to stand as a statue in the Flash Museum for all time, alive and frozen, staring at the hero Bart in all his glory. There’s also a bit of foreshadowing with the Rogues in hiding being mysteriously gathered up, and of Wally’s kids and their possible heroic destinies. All just great stuff.

Countdown #41: Denis Calero on pencils for a DC book? Whoo! His shadowy pencils remind me a lot of Ryan Sook’s – no surprise since they both worked on Marvel’s X-Factor book, which is all about a dark, noir attitude. It’s great to see his style on some of the Countdown characters I’m beginning to enjoy. Piper and Trickster survive their fall in a manner reminiscent of one of my Great Escapes – a pair of flying boots stuck in the pack of goodies Trickster managed to snag as they jumped from the plane. Landing in Gotham – probably not the safest place to land – has put the pair close to a source of help: the penguin? Jimmy Olsen decides on a costume and superhero name – Mr. Action – while he struggles with maintaining a secret identity. Mary Marvel questions her new powers while Eclipso notes her potential from afar. Holly and Harley watch as a mob converges outside the Athenian Shelter. Ryan Choi – the Atom – Donna, Jason, and “Bob” (as Jason has named the Monitor helping them) continue their search for Ray Palmer. With Beechen writing this story, the issue moves along and the dialogue comes both quick and funny.

Robin #164: While Dodge recruits a team to take down Robin, Tim Drake is offered a spot on the tennis team. It’s a light issue featuring very little Robin-ing, but still engaging enough because of the script and images.

Checkmate #16: The calm before the fall. “The Fall of the Wall” and the revival of the Suicide Squad are coming soon in Checkmate, and this issue sets up some of the pieces while mainly focusing on relationships – those of the Black Queen and Mr. Fantastic, and Fire and Ice. A good, strong read with some nice pencils (something the book was occasionally lacking during the Outsiders/Checkmate crossover).

Justice League of America #11: Wow! This issue is an example of why Brad Meltzer is one of my favorite authors. Buried and trapped in a fallen building as a result of a super-villain attack, Red Arrow and Vixen struggle to stay alive. Impaled by rebar and cut by glass and debris – bones shattered – these two heroes fight to survive. The fear and desire to live feel real, and that’s due to Meltzer’s ability to create “real” characters and emotion in his writing. You simply believe. And as an added bonus, the issue features the fully-painted artwork of Gene Ha. I’ve been a fan of his work since his guest stints on Starman. At first you might feel a bit cheated by the massive amount blank, black space on the page, with every panel just a thin sliver of art – mostly because the art is so good – but the layout and design are intentional. It all works to create a lack of space – constriction – the feeling of being buried alive. And it works very well. This has to be one of my favorite single-issue stories of the year. Very highly recommended.

Amazons Attack! #4: The thing I enjoy about war (reading and watching fictionalized war) is the complexity of it all. Two sides, both fighting for what they believe to be right and just. It makes for compelling reading and viewing. Attack! is doing a better job of presenting these sides – these conflicts and differing beliefs. It really helps to make the book more interesting. Pete Woods also contributes some fantastically consistent art that helps too.

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #54: It was good enough. We learned a little more about the sinking of San Diego, and saw the appearance of the villain, Vandal Savage to this series. The art by McManus is still quite cartoony – but visually unique – and pleasantly enjoyable.

Catwoman #69: Catwoman is sent by Batman to infiltrate the Bana, a renegade band of Amazons acting as terrorists across the country during the Amazon’s Attack. While always seeming to find herself in situations such as this, Catwoman is still a smartly written book with a strong, witty, quick and enjoyable main character. Turning Catwoman into a mother has also added some humor to lighten up the book.
Catwoman: Okay. Just let me ask you one question. It’s got nothing to do with whatever the topic at hand is.
Batman: What?
Catwoman: Just when did you install the car seat?
A car seat with a giggling baby in the back seat of the Batmobile: priceless.

World War Hulk #2: The battle rages on! This is by far one of the best “events” Marvel – or any company – has done in a long, long time. The art is stunning and the words just fly by. It’s all captivating stuff – in much the same way I was describing being fascinated by war earlier on. Just when you think that the Hulk might listen to reason, some dumb “good guy” goes and blows it all by attacking him. It looks like next issue features the return of General Ross – one of the Hulk’s oldest adversaries – and a ton of helicopters loaded for bear. Support the war – BUY HULK!

Black Canary #2: I know this is all just a way of milking the upcoming Green Arrow/Black Canary wedding, but I am enjoying this mini-series. I like the characters – and they’re written well here – and the amount of action. Makes it all worthwhile.

Birds of Prey #108: The fight between Oracle and Spysmasher was great. There was even a new move for me: pounding fists down on someone’s eyes while their head rested face up on the floor. Yikes! It was also cool to see the four page spread of all of Oracles allies and friends assembled to help. It would have been even better if the four pages all folded out for a continuous image.

The Programme #1: Super-soldiers and war. A dude with amnesia, of sorts, and a couple of flashbacks to the end of WWII. It’s all still a little vague, but the series does have potential. I’ll wait for the trade where hopefully things will make a little more sense. The colorful and photorealistic artwork by C.P. Smith is something of a wonder, though.