Summer Reading, pt. 1

by Brandon

Summer. This is the comic book fan's season for catching up and enjoying a good, geeky book while one should be outside instead. Jenn remarked last week while on our honeymoon, "How did comic books end up coming on our honeymoon?" Well, the answer really does boggle the mind; I packed them in a backpack and brought them with us. I made full use of the quiet setting of Sound off Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to catch up on some reading. Some of the titles are old, some are new, but they all get a little review from me here.

Grendel War Child #'s 1-10
Though this book takes place chronologically far beyond what I've read to thus far in the Grendel series (chapters 41-50, whereas I just entered the teens in my regular Grendel reading), I decided to give this miniseries a go since I picked it up for a buck a couple of weeks ago. It turned out to be a fairly accessible read, but not just in terms of Wagner's writing, but also the helpful recap pages at the front of the book and two-page review pages in the back of each issue which successfully and succinctly explained the entire history of the printed Grendel up to that point. Grendel Prime, the protagonist of this story, turned out to be a very effective Grendel. What he lacked in Hunter Rose's flamboyance, he made up for in true grit. This was a great miniseries and highly recommended, especially if you can find it on the cheap like I did.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars #6
No real trip would be complete without having read something in the Star Wars realm. Unfortunately, this last issue in the first Clone Wars arc was very disappointing. While the story of stopping intergalactic slavery would be interesting in, say, the 1860s, it just seemed a bit odd for a focus here. I realize Anakin was a slave, but the story's heavy "gee, this is soooooooo wrong" tilt from the beginning was a nonstarter. Of course slavery is wrong. Do we need six issues of action packed preaching to deliver that point home? This first arc was in no way as engaging as the first season of the television show. Maybe it will pick up soon, but if the second arc doesn't grab me, this book will be on the chopping block.

Justice League America #'s 46-50 (Glory Bound)& Annual #4 (JL Antarctica)
I'm almost finished with my rereading of the classic JLI from Giffen and DeMatteis. I have thoroughly enjoyed every issue and arc of JLI up until the Glory Bound arc found in issues 46-50. The first issue involving Guy Gardner going to a comic book convention was good, but the rest of the story fell flat. Much of the fun about the arc I suppose was to be derived from poking fun at the Captain America pastiche General Glory. The only catch was that... it just wasn't funny. Annual #4, however, was an excellent issue of the series that introduced the Antarctica branch of the JLI. The ineffective Injustice League and Gnort get assigned to patrol Antarctica and protect it from flesh-eating penguins. It was zany fun despite the fact that Gnort was featured so heavily. My only complaint really about this latter era of JLI is the fact that Booster Gold was MIA. He and Blue Beetle really made this title great. Despite my small grievances, this title really has rejuvenated my interest in the comic book medium. The JLI books have been fun to read. I feel old saying this, but they just don't make them like that anymore.

Justice League Europe #'s 23-28 & Annual #2
Of the various JLI books, JLE was the one I was most wary about reading, but it has in fact been one of the most enjoyable. The mix of action and Bwah-ha-ha is perfect in this title. Plus, it features some of the more consistently interesting JLI members; Captain Atom, Flash, Elongated Man, Power Girl and her cat, Rocket Red, and Metamorpho. Whereas the JLA title seemed to spend more time goofing around the embassy, JLE seemed to get out more and, you know, handle bad guys. Whether it was fighting huge works controlled by a league of captains of industry (issues 23-25) or fighting off Starro yet again (issues 26-28), this particular incarnation of the league was always fun and effective in their own little way. Any story that can make Starro seem not lame is a good story. Along with the above JLA issues, these issues can be found for ridiculously cheap prices, most likely less than a buck an issue. They are well worth your time to seek out.

Hero Squared #'s 1-3 & Special #1
Speaking of J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, someone recommended Hero Squared to me a while back. I bought the original miniseries and X-tra Sized special to try it out. While it was funny in many parts, I just don't see how this story could be sustained over a long period of time. It seems pretty finite to me. I'm glad to see that there are only nine issues after these initial four remaining because I just don't see the concept really stretching too far. It was a fun read, but if someone were inclined to want to check this creative team out, they would be much better served by seeking out the JLI titles.

Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine #6
Wow... that was a letdown. We waited for that? Seriously? While the Nick Fury part at the end was solid, the rest was lackluster, and that's being kind. A Wolverine and Hulk miniseries should be cool. It should be grandiose and over the top. This miniseries started off with a bang, but ended on a barely audible thud.

Ultimate Spider-Man #132
Did you read the above review? Kinda sucky. Well, that's pretty much my opinion of this issue too. It's been no secret that I think Ultimatum has been dreadful, but this is just crap. Ultimate Spider-Man was one of the best titles Marvel had going. It wasn't groundbreaking, but it was always consistent. Now that it has been mucked up by all this Ultimatum junk, it has become almost unreadable. Thanks, Marvel.

The Invincible Iron Man #13
Hmmm. Interesting. I have never read a regular, monthly Iron Man comic in my life, but something compelled me to pick this title up last summer and I've been enjoying it ever since. While I think this "Most Wanted" story arc has been going on for too long, I think Fraction is slowly building up to a boiling point that will be amazing. The inevitable confrontation with Norman Osborn should be the most exciting comic Marvel produces in this whole Dark Reign business, but that's up to how well Fraction and the other frame it. If you look at Invincible Iron Man, it looks like it will be explosive. Kudos on both the writing and art here. This is by far one of the best titles Marvel is producing now.

Daredevil #118
I believe it was King George the Third who wrote in his diary on July 4, 1776 that "nothing much happened today." The same could be said for this issue. Is it just me, or has Daredevil become to whiny lately? It just kind of drones on and on and on. We get to see Daredevil brood for much of the issue, which is highly original. For those who are a poor judge of sarcasm, that was definitely sarcasm. I want to read Daredevil stories that are exciting crime dramas, not emo-like pity sessions where Matt muses about how shitty his life has become. Get over it. That Daredevil story has been written at least eighty times. Let's move on, shall we?

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Shout Outs! and Scream Ats!

by Matt

Welcome to another "Shout Out/Scream At!” column! where I take a look at what makes me a happy fanboy (Shout Outs!) and what frustrates me (Scream Ats!) about the comic industry. With this column I will be covering Captain America, Rocketeer, Planetary, DC's new series Magog, Messiah War and more Obama comics.!

SHOUT OUT! Planetary #27
It is really easy for me to forgive something when I love it so much. Just like my kid Logan when he accidentally deleted my 6 year franchise Madden game a few years ago, I can forgive him because I sure love the little guy. That is how I feel about Planetary. I should be screaming bloody murder that this book is taking so stinking long to come out but now that I know it is coming, I can forgive it. Planetary is my favorite Warren Ellis work (and yes, I consider myself an EllisWhore(tm)) and ranks up their with my favorite comic works of all-time. I cannot wait for this epilogue and I definitely cannot wait for the inevitable Absolute Planetary Vol 2.

SCREAM AT! Captain America Hype
Marvel has really hit the Hype Machine with the release of Captain America #600 and the new Reborn series and I shouldn't be surprised that they are bringing back Steve Rogers. But with all the hype, I find this announcement extremely underwhelming and that is probably because I found Bucky as Cap WAY more exciting than Steve and the story of him coming back. I am sure Brubaker will write an excellent yarn but I cannot hide the fact that I wish Bucky had more time to be Cap. It sure doesn't feel like it has been two years since Steve's death. It wouldn't surprise me if Marvel still had another swerve coming up.

In the new DC solicitations it was found that a new character was to be given a ongoing series. I was excited to see who it was since I am now down to one DC book and I wanted to dabble back into the DC Universe again. And I was surprised that it was Magog. Magog? Don't get me wrong, I really liked how the character developed in the recent JSA series but he would have been one of the last characters I would have expected (and picked) for a new ongoing series. You know who I wanted? I would have loved seeing a Dr. Mid-Nite or Mr. Terrific series. Or Stargirl return for another series. I would gladly pay $3.99 for a Stargirl ongoing if it was written by Johns. But Magog? Such a strange choice.

SHOUT OUT! The Rocketeer: The Complete Collection
When I am bored at work, I like to browse Amazon and find stuff that is going to be coming out. I was very excited when I saw this baby! The Rocketeer: The Complete Collection. I have not read any of Dave Steven's stuff before but I do have fond memories of the old Rocketeer movie starring a young Jennifer Connelly and one of my favorite actors in Timothy Dalton. I have always been interested in the Rocketeer and now I have his completed adventures in one book. The books have been completely re-colored, as per Dave Stevens' wishes, by colorist Laura Martin.

SCREAM AT! Messiah War
Maybe it is because I have not read the ending of this crossover, but it just has not been doing anything for me. Nothing in the book excites me like the previous crossover Messiah Complex. Partly because I have not been a huge fan of the artwork but I couldn't place my finger on it until we see Archangel confront Apocalypse and spare his life. Then it hit me, the biggest reason I have not liked this crossover all that much is because it reminds me of the 90's crossover X-Cutioner's Song. Archangel confronts Apocalypse and spares his life in that one too. Not only that but in both crossovers we see X-Force sent to catch Cable, we see Bishop and Wolverine track Cable.

SCREAM AT! More Obama Comics
I think I have had my fill on Obama-based comics. In fact, I have gotten so tired of them that I would not have picked up Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers if I knew ahead of time that Obama's dog was slated to appear. Don't get me wrong, I am for Obama, I am just tired of all the comics. I do admit that the variant cover for Ash Saves Obama is pretty cool but enough is enough already!

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Panelology: Married... With Comics, pt. 2

by Brandon

The tables have turned today! On Tuesday, I interviewed Jenn about our upcoming nuptials, her perception of my geekiness, and how the move in together will impact my beloved comic book hobby. Jenn puts on her game face to interviews me about my fanboy tendencies.

Jenn: I can understand reading comic books is an enjoyable activity for you. What I don't understand is the collecting part of it. Can you explain why that is so important to you?

Brandon: This is a chicken and egg question. Which came first; the comic book reading or collecting? For a long, long time, I shunned the "collector" label because I definitely did not enter this hobby thinking that I wanted to simply possess 6,000 comics. I was a reader, and avid reader, which I think was odd for someone reading comics in the early-to-mid 1990s because so many people were in the hobby because of the collecting angle. I can't tell you how any of my friends would buy a comic and never crack the thing open once to give it a read. For those like me, comics were a commodity that was to be traded. We read all sorts of different titles, so we would swap issues for reading purposes. You couldn't buy too many comic books for a $2 a week allowance! I was not in a position to buy every book that came across my radar.

That economic reality is part of the reason why "collecting" comic books has become a part of my comic book hobby. By the time I left college in 2002, I only had three long boxes. Now, I have almost twenty with several short boxes for current comic book series I'm reading. After getting a job and a stable source of income, I found myself going back to the titles that did come across my radar back when I was a prepubescent punk. Most of the stuff I had bought and traded or at least read from a friend when I was younger. These issues were populating back issue bins at ridiculously cheap prices. Once again, economics played into the equation!

While I still consider myself to be primarily a reader, collecting has become an unintended byproduct of the reading. While I would say 80% of the comics in my collection will never grace my eyes again in terms of reading, it is hard to part with the little boogers. That is until you tell me I have to make a choice; you or the comic books. And of course, I would choose you, darling. Maybe.

Jenn: If the house was burning and you had to choose between saving me or saving "The Amazing Spider-Man #129" (Punisher's First Appearance), would I be on my own?

Brandon: I wouldn't say you would be on your own. That would be highly inappropriate for me to leave you in burning house. However, are you carrying anything? I mean, once we get the cats out and I know that they are secure, we could totally go back in and grab some books. By the way, how much can you lift? I would say that each box weighs around 25 pounds. I figure we could make it out with at least ten boxes before the fire gets too bad. I think you are up t the challenge. But remember, this is a team effort. No slacking off! We don't have all day, the house is burning.

Jenn: What if I had been a hardcore DC Comics fan when we started dating? Do you suppose we'd still be engaged to be married?

Brandon: Oh, that's a good question. First off, I have to give you some major props for even knowing that being a DC fan might have been a faux pas when we met. Secondly, I'm glad to know that you've been noticing what I've been reading lately! To answer your question, I don't think it would have matter tome in the way you are suggesting. You know that before we hit it off, I dated a freaky anime girl who did like comics. She was also a furry. That taught me one important lesson; I didn't really want to date myself. I'm extraorinarily broing. I have crappy tastes in entertainment, food, drink, and clothing. I have good taste in women. Therefore, I cannot date anyone who may have read all the volumes of The History of Middle-Earth or who can name more members of the Moff Council than I can. You have no idea what I'm talking about with either one of those cases and that's just fine with me.

Jenn: Can we please remove the Darth Vader head from the headboard after we get married? It really creeps me out!

Brandon: You're asking far too much of me now. Why is having a Darth Vader mask on our headboard creepy? It's a Darth Vader mask, not Darth Vader. You see, Darth Vader is a fictional character. He doesn't really exist! The creepiness rests in your own mind, not on my headboard. Plus, what if it makes me feel secure having Vader there? Would you want to rob me of my safety?

Seriously though, the answer is; whatever you want, darling. I have no say in the decorating arena. If it's between sex and Vader, I will go with booty any day of the week. Especially if there's a Star Wars costume involved. Despite your misgivings about the Darth Vader helmet, you still come to my bed with me. What does that say about you, I wonder.

Jenn: If you had to choose between Star Wars, Comic Books and the Music collection, which would win (this may be useful to me when we merge households *wink*)?

Brandon: Well... I'm just so freaking lucky that I'm marrying someone like you who won't make me have to choose. Right? RIGHT? I can say in my defense that I have significantly cut back on my Star Wars collectibles purchasing over the last year. I feel like a recovering alcoholic saying this, but I haven't purchased a Star Wars figure in seven months. In my opinion, the Star Wars collection has become a bigger beast than the comic books because they serve no "decorative" role in the household. They just take up a considerable amount of space in one closet.

Does that mean I want to get rid of them? Hell no! But yeah... something has to be done about those things. Let's get past this wedding business and getting you moved in before we tackle the Star Wars collection. I've been a good sport about the comic book stuff thus far. I think I deserve that much.

Jenn: What do you think would happen if Frank Castle was one of the leading men in He's Just Not That Into You?

Brandon: Well, first ff, I think it might be a considerably shorter movie. That particular chick flick was like the Lord of the Rings of chick flicks. I expected Hobbits to come running into Jennifer Aniston's bedroom screaming, "You did it, Mister Frodo! You did it!"

Jenn: Just answer the question.

Brandon: Okay! I think Frank would probably kill many of those self-absorbed characters out of pity or principle from the get-go. He would be putting them, and the audience, out of their memory. Benn Affleck and Jennifer Aniston's characters would be first to go. I think he would also try to toughen up the group of gay men who work with Drew Barrymore's character. I mean, really, people are dying every day out on the mean streets and all these guys can talk about is making booty calls on Facebook. I also would love to see him go to a club with the main character/loser Gigi. She would start rolling into one of her moaning monologues about not finding the right man, but Frank would counter with some grim tale about losing a good man on the Mekong River in hail of fire and blood. It would totally ruin the moment and then he would sock her in the face for being so pompous. Then he would go kill some crack dealers or something. It would be awesome.

Jenn and I get married June 13, this Saturday, at 4:30 p.m. We do have a website if you are so inclined to check it out. Make sure you request some ridiculous song and I'll make sure it makes it into rotation during the reception. Just don't tell Jenn! I may be back sometime next week with a few photos from the wedding, but I'm sort of going to be on the honeymoon at the time, which means those scant few people reading this will be meaningless to me during that time. Everything is coming into place now for the wedding.

I get asked the oft asked question "are you nervous?" now virtually every five minutes. I think that question is making me nervous. But I am not nervous about my decision! Jenn and I are very happy with one another. I'm convinced that I will be able to get her to read some more comics in the near future. Our marriage may depend on it.

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Panelology: Married... With Comics, Pt. 1

by Brandon & Jenn
It's happening and there's nothing I can do to stop it now. No, I'm not referring Steve Rogers returning as Captain America. In just four measly days, I'm going to get married to the love of my life, Jenn. We're currently smack dab in the middle of that "fun" stage right before the wedding where tensions are high as our nerves fritz out on us. While we're both sure that we are right for one another, one of the things Jenn likes to kindly rib me for is my affinity for comic books. As we begin to merge households, we have talked a lot about comic books lately. These are not the kinds of comic book conversations I would like to have about plot points and our favorite issues. No, these are serious, adult conversations about what we should do with all these damn comic books in my townhouse.

These conversations have been pretty riveting, lighthearted, and sometimes tense. I realize that the comic books in my townhouse take up a considerable amount of space. Ultimately, I decided to go with the BCW long storing boxes to file away my twenty some odd boxes in order to help create some space for us to live. The death of my bachelor lifestyle is upon us, but does that mean my comic book collecting days are over?

What follows is just a sampling of the conversations Jenn and I have been engaged in the past few weeks. Jenn doesn't call me an "asshat" here, which is a very positive start for us when having these conversations. Just as background, Jenn and I have been dating for almost three years now, but we haven't necessarily lived together other than on the weekends since she lives 90 miles away. She's probably the smartest woman on the face of the entire planet. She has got her PhD. in molecular biology and she is a scientist. Unfortunately, she hasn't been able to come up with any cool experiments that will give me superpowers yet, but I'm sure that particular instance is just around the corner for us.

Brandon: What did you think of comic book hobby when we first met? Do you remember your first experience with my fanboy room?

Jenn: I thought the comic book thing was "cute." Clearly, I did not realize the extent of your enthusiasm or the far reaching impact on every other part of your life (poor decorating decisions, planning vacations around comic conventions, etc.). The first time I saw the Fanboy room, we had only been dating for about a month and I was still in that "blinded by love phase." I don't really think I took it all in on that first visit because I only remember being struck by two things: 1)the sheer volume of books/boxes and 2)the life size stormtrooper in the corner.It wasn't until much later that I saw all of the "toys" and other Fanboy paraphernelia.

Brandon: I don't mean to be picky, but that's not a Stormtrooper in my extra bedroom. That's Boba Fett. But that's beside the point. What do you like about my having this hobby?

Jenn: First, I like that we have our own interests and maintain our own unique identities. Second, as my mom always says: At least I know what you are up to on a Friday night! There are many worse hobbies that you could have, so I guess I should be happy with this one!

Brandon: What do you dislike about my having this hobby?

Jenn: I think the first two dislikes are obvious, but are also a problem with many other hobbies that a person could have (you could say the same about scrapbooking for me!)...Space and money. However, I think with our new storage system, the space concern is much less of an issue. Also, you do a pretty good job monitoring how much you spend on comics and you shop for deals, so even though it is not how I would choose to spend MY money, I can't really complain about it.

Now, the real deal...an indirect effect of your comic book madness is that I get stuck at comic book stores (or at least sitting out in the car waiting for YOU in the comic store) WAY more often than I would like. Also, you put comic books on bithday and Christmas wish lists, which means that if I want to be a good girlfriend (replace with wife after June 13), I have to visit the comic book stores!

Brandon: To date, I've successfully managed to get you to read one comic, the Fables graphic novel. What did you think of it?

Jenn: I thought it was enjoyable to read - an interesting take on some characters from my childhood. I think the thing about comics that is frustrating to me is that you don't get a nice neat conclusion at the end of one book, because usually that one book is part of a series and you've really only completed a chapter in the story. I just don't see how you can be reading 6 different titles and keep all of the various stories straight from one month to the next! Ok, let the eye rolling begin...

Brandon: Why haven't you read any more comic books? What would it take to get you to read another comic?

Jenn: As mentioned in my previous, response...it is frustrating for me. I guess if you find me a somewhat girly comic that I can finish in just a few issues, I would consider it. Also, you will need to take up scrapbooking.

Brandon: What is the geekiest thing you've ever seen me do?

Jenn: Wow, so many to choose from! No, really ...I think you keep the "Geekiness" to a minimum. I wouldn't nail this down to a particular activity. I think the geekiest I've ever seen you behave is when you got really into Heroscape initially - the childlike giddiness over your new discovery was pretty geeky!

Plus, the occasional soliloquy ranting about the accuracy of a movie based on comic book history can get a little Geek too.

Brandon: Really? That's an unusual choice! I wouldn't have even put Heroscape in my top 100 geek out moments. Which hobby annoys you more and why; Star Wars, Comic Books, or the music collection?

Jenn: I can not choose. Star Wars and Comic Books take up so much space. The music collection results in my exposure to your music. There is no lesser or greater evil.

Brandon: How do you describe my "fanboy tendencies" to your friends and family?

Jenn: I don't try really. No one has ever really probed beyond "He collects comic books" unless it is to ask if you own any valuable ones. Plus, it is just who you are...I don't think I should have to explain who you are to anyone. They should have to figure it out for themselves, just like the rest of us! :)

On that Hallmark note, I'll end the interview for the day. Check back tomorrow for part 2. Jenn will be interview me about my hobby and I'm going to attempt to be honest.
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