Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sandman: Overture #2 - A Review

The Sandman: Overture #2 continues neatly from where the first issue ended some many months ago, with Dream of the Endless finding himself.  Or its selves, since many of them are female or beyond the normal definitions of gender.  Regardless, ill omens have summoned forth these Dreams and it will fall to them to deal with a looming disaster that threatens all reality.

Those who enjoyed Neil Gaiman's previous work on The Sandman will find more of the same here.  Those who have not would do well to either track down a copy of Preludes and Nocturnes to catch-up with the rest of us or have themselves committed to some manner of psychiatric hospital.  I say this because anyone who has read The Sandman and not enjoyed it needs to be committed immediately because they are clearly insane and have no place in polite society.

The same could be said of the artwork of J.H. Williams III.  I was no great fan of the Batwoman book but I cannot deny the beauty of Williams' artwork.  There is a majesty and power to every page of this issue that seems a perfect match for Gaiman's writing style.  The final presentation combined is gorgeous.  Really, the only thing about this book that is bad is the wait-time between issues.

King Conan: The Conqueror #2 - A Review

This eighth chapter of Dark Horse Comics adaptation of The Hour Of The Dragon finds our favorite barbarian in dire straits.  The last issue ended with Conan setting sail after the thief who stole the magical gem he needs to save his kingdom.  As this issue opens, Conan is lost at sea and without provisions.  Salvation of a kind does find Conan but his rescuers see him not as a sailor in need but as another strong back for their slave galley!

As in previous chapters, Tim Truman's script captures the flavor of Robert E. Howard's original writing, for good and for ill.  While this chapter - in which Conan turns the tables on the slavers and leads a rebellion against them - is a grand action sequence, it is still full of unfortunate implications to modern audiences in that the predominantly black slaves didn't have any apparent inclination to try and rebel against their captors until Conan showed up.  Truman mitigates this by making some of the crew more reluctant to jump into the battle, until their fellows - former crewmen of Conan in his pirate days - tell them of Conan's prowess as a leader.  

Every glorious bit of gore and action is perfectly captured by Tomas Giorello and Jose Vilarrubia.  Giorello is one of the finest visual storytellers in the business and Vilarrubia's colors are well-applied throughout, with a wide variety of vibrant shades being used in the backgrounds to contrast the dimmer colors used for most of the events in the foreground.  The final effect is breathtaking!

Raising Steam - A Book Review

The basic principles of steam having power enough to move things are well known to anyone who ever had the lid blow off of a boiling kettle.  But no one on The Discworld had ever thought of trying to harness such power.  Nobody, that is, except for a canny lad by the name of Dick Simnel, who dreams of steam-powered engines and a brave new world.

Unfortunately, there are many in the cowardly old world who take to change as readily as a duck takes to lava.  And even The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, while not the sort of tyrant to stand in the way of progress, is likewise not the sort of tyrant to allow the status quo to be altered without certain assurances.  Or, at the very least, a suitable amount of taxable revenue.

Enter Moist Von Lipwig - Master of Ankh-Morpork's Post Office, Mint, Royal Bank and Vetinari's top scoundrel.  Moist is all too eager to throw himself into the exciting new business of organizing everything springing up around Simnel's Iron Girder... especially once Vetinari makes it clear that the alternative involves being thrown to the kittens.  Of course Moist is a firm believer that a life without danger is not worth living and he'll find danger aplenty apart from his execution-minded employer trying to keep this new "rail-way" on-track.

Raising Steam - despite nominally being about the discovery of steam-power on the Discworld and the joy of trains - is perhaps the most topical book Sir Terry Pratchett has ever written. No stranger to tackling controversial issues, Pratchett's previous works have explored such heavy topics such as gun control (Men At Arms), the role of women in the military (Monstrous Regiment) the perils of mindless nationalism in a time of war (Jingo) and the battle between organized religion and spirituality (Small Gods).  Even Pratchett's earlier works, more concerned with parodying the cliches of fantasy than in satirizing modern life, took a serious look at sexism and racism.

Raising Steam does not content itself with one topical issue, tackling a whole host of societal ills as the story progresses.   Change vs. Tradition.  Urbanization vs. Ruralization.  Misogyny vs Feminism.  There's even a bit that could be seen as a parable for Transsexual Rights!

Why so much societal commentary?  Maybe the master satirist has become more thoughtful after thirty years of writing?  Or perhaps his diagnosis with Alzheimer's Disease back has spurred Pratchett into action, rushing to get all his serious thoughts out into the world while he is still capable of articulating them?

Whatever the case, it must be said that while Pratchett does tread some new ground with this story, there's a lot of rehashing as well.  There are a lot of bits with various characters realizing that It Is Wrong To Judge Someone By The Color Of Their Skin in relation to their dealings with goblins, who have quickly (i.e. since the end of the last Discworld novel, Snuff) achieved a valued position in Ankh-Morporkian society by proving their worth as telegraph operators.

To Pratchett's credit, this is all written in a fairly broad manner.  Indeed, the villains of the piece - the dwarvish priest/scholars know as grags, who hate everything that might be considered undwarvish - could be compared to any number of real-world organizations from religious fundamentalists to Luddites.  Pratchett preaches not against any one group but against the attitude that all which is new or unknown should immediately be regarded with scorn.

Still, the fact that Pratchett has to preach at all is worrisome.  And the sad fact is that while previous Discworld books have made me laugh so hard I had to put the book down for a moment, I did not laugh-out-loud once while reading Raising Steam.  There are witty lines and puns aplenty but not as much high-level hilarity as in times past.

Does this mean that the book isn't worth reading?  Not on your life!  It is different, yes, but it is not bad.  If nothing else, Pratchett deserves credit for trying to examine how something so revolutionary as steam-power would change nearly every aspect of life on the Discworld and trying to bring as many of his cast of characters into play, however briefly. I should like to have seen The Librarian get a chance at driving the train but I can content myself with the footnote where Rincewind - despite spending his first train ride hiding under the seat - eventually concedes the value the rail way could offer someone seeking to run away from something very quickly.  

In the end, Raising Steam is not a great Discworld novel but it is a good book. Even the worst Discworld books are still good reads.  And while there's little that might make a reader laugh boisterously, there is still much that will make them smile.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

T.A.B.L.E. - Tabletop And Boardgame Learning Expo!

I will be running games all weekend at the first annual Tabletop And Boardgame Learning Expo (TABLE). 

It's being held at the Westin Hotel in Irving, Texas -  4545 W. John Carpenter Freeway, Irving, TX 75063.  The fun starts at 4 PM on Friday, March 28th and runs through 7 PM on Sunday, March 30th.

There's a spattering of celebrities including Steve Jackson (if you have to ask, you probably won't care who he is), Keith "Ebberon" Baker and our pal Taffeta Darling among others.  However, should you wish to see me or want to learn the basics of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 or Pathfinder, here's my official schedule.


Table 2 - Intro to D&D 3.5 - 11 AM to 3 PM


Table 1 - Pathfinder RPG (with Keith Earley) - 3 PM to 7 PM.

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 17 - Birds of Prey

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


When a police raid unearths mob boss Frank Bertinelli, Team Arrow is quick to drop everything and prepare for the inevitable return of The Huntress.  But the team's headache proves to be a boon to Laurel, who is rehired by the district attorney's office to bring Bertinelli to trial.  It seems too good to be true... until The Huntress and an armed gang take the courthouse and the people inside it hostage!

Now, as an increasingly vengeful Roy Harper struggles to end his relationship with Thea Queen, the rest of the team must cope with not only The Huntress but with a trigger-happy SWAT team leader who seems more concerned about bagging a vigilante than saving lives.  And somewhere in the shadows, Slade Wilson is waiting for the opportune moment to strike again...

In the island flashbacks, Slade discovers that the engines of the Amazo were damaged in his attack on the ship.  The one man who can fix them is among those who escaped to the island with Sara.  With Ollie being tortured under the threat of death if the mechanic does not return, how far will Sara go to save the man she loves? 


Green Arrow: Year One (the island sequences) Mike Grell's Green Arrow (Canary having to make a hard choice as Green Arrow is being tortured) and Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey (story title and the interactions between the female characters).


Kate Spencer has to be the most incompetent district attorney this side of Hamilton Burger and it is a wonder that it took assistant D.A. Adam Donner this long to be fired considering his failure to share evidence with the defense in Moira Queen's murder trial and the whole incident with Count Vertigo.  Ignoring that, it doesn't speak well of D.A. Spencer that her right-hand struck a deal with a noted mob boss to bait a trap for a dangerous vigilante and rehired a disgraced former member of her staff to prosecute the case without her knowing anything about it, given that Laurel's rehiring and appointment to the Bertinelli prosecution was announced on the news and Laurel was given a desk in Spencer's offices!

How can Laurel blackmail Spencer into keeping her job anyway?  Ignoring the difficulty in hiding the real reasons for Donner being fired at this point, Laurel is hardly a credible witness if she does go to the press. 


As good as the fight scenes on this show usually are, the opening action scene is particularly good.  The fight scenes between Huntress and Canary are notable for a complete lack of overt fan-service - unlike 95% of the fights between two attractive women in most action series.

Writers Mark Bemesderfer and A.C. Bradley wrote a rich and multilayered script for this episode.  The most noteworthy aspect is that much of the conflict is born between the similarities of the three main female characters.  Helena and Laurel have both been brought low by their inability to cope with the loss of the man they loved, though Helena's rage turned outward while Laurel's anger was largely internalized.  Sara and Helena have both been pushed to extremes by their love and both are willing to kill in the name of love... at least until the of end of the episode.  There's also a nice parallel on that theme between the Sara of today and the Sara of five years ago, as the young Sara discovers how far she'll go to save Ollie.  Finally, there's the conflict between Sara and Laurel - both of whom stop the other from giving into their vices as the episode progresses.


The episode title, Birds of Prey, was taken from a comic book focused upon a group of all-female vigilantes.  While the membership has changed over time, two of the most steadfast members were Black Canary and The Huntress.

The gangster the SCPD is moving in on as the episode starts is Hugo Mannheim.  This is close to Bruno Mannheim - a powerful gangster in the Superman comics and the leader of Intergang.

Laurel's phone is traced to the corner of Gail and Simone.  This is a reference to writer Gail Simone, who wrote what many consider to be the definitive run on Birds of Prey.


Ollie makes use of a bola arrow to catch Frank Bertinelli. 

Sara uses the Canary Cry for the first time since 213She also uses a voice modulator, to change her voice around Laurel.

Dialogue Triumphs

(Quentin Lance tries to call The Arrow while Oliver Queen stands next to him.)
*Quentin glances at Ollie, as Ollie's phone rings at the exact same instant*
Ollie: (holding up his phone) It's my mom!

Numerous repeated lines, including...

"Show me."

"I am what I need to be,"

"Once you let the darkness inside, it never comes out."

Thea's entire "Why is it so hard for everyone just to tell the truth?" speech.


First appearance of The Huntress and Frank Bertinelli since 117.

Roy hasn't been active in the field since 212.  He still has trouble controlling his anger.

The dragon tattoo on Ollie's back is a copy of the one Shado had.  Slade had it put on him as a reminder of his "crime".

Untelevised Adventures

Reference is made to The Huntress having spent the last year killing Mafia members in Italy over the past year.

The Bottom Line

An interesting episode which puts Ollie in shadows for most of the episode in order to focus on three women he's loved and the common ground between them.  Despite some great character work in this regard, the action sequences are also top notch.  Most impressively, it almost redeems Laurel completely.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Invaders #3 - A Review

Invaders #3 opens with one of Steve Pugh's amazing splash-pages and the only real action sequence in the entire issue.  Mind you, it is a great action scene, depicting Namor battling a legion of Kree soldiers.  The whole sequence showcases Pugh's skills as both an artist and a fight choreographer.    

Alas, the rest of the issue gives Pugh little chance to cut loose in this fashion.  Most of the book is devoted towards character-building and set-up for a journey to the Kree homeworld.  This sort of thing is writer James Robinson's bread and butter but it can be an acquired taste.  Action fans will be sorely disappointed but those who enjoy quirky scenes that reveal Captain America makes a damn-fine cup of espresso will be entertained. 

Invaders may not be everyone's cup of tea... or espresso.  Indeed, this issue is more sedate than the first two books in the series.  Thankfully, the conclusion suggests a great deal more action next month, for those who anxiously await more scenes of blue-skinned aliens being punched in the face.

Doctor Who: Dreams Of Empire - A Book Review

The once-great Haddron Republic stands on a knife's edge.  A civil war has shaken the government to the breaking point, with Consul General Kesar having tried - and failed - to lead a military revolution that would have made him Emperor.  His fellow Consuls - both close friends since childhood - elected to see Kesar exiled rather than executed, thinking their friend more dangerous as a martyr than as a prisoner.

Now confined to the distant asteroid of Santespri, Kesar himself is hidden away behind an iron mask and special life-supporting armor.  This was, it was said, a necessary step following Kesar's disfigurement and near-fatal wounding following an assassination attempt after his sentencing.  Yet there are those who share Kesar's Dreams of Empire and believe that though he is wounded and weakened, Kesar is still the only man capable of restoring the glory days of the Republic.

It is into this conflict that The Doctor and his companions Jamie and Victoria wander, arriving on Santespri on the same day that Kesar's old friend and military opponent Consul Trayx has come to inspect the facility.  Questions arise immediately, as the crew of the TARDIS uncover a dead body in the heart of the heavily secured facility.  And far above them all, a silent ship approaches the prison with an unknown crew and unknown goals...

Your opinion of Dreams of Empire may depend upon how you feel about adherence to certain tropes in Classic Doctor Who.  It is fair to say that author Justin Richards succeeded in capturing the feeling of a classic Second Doctor story.  Unfortunately the story he chose to emulate was not a particularly memorable one, the action of this story being centered upon yet another Base Under Siege.

That said, Richards has a number of good ideas that do dress up the standard plot.  The basic conceit of the story, as Richards explains in his introduction, came from him wondering what might have happened had Julius Cesar not ridden a wave of popularity onto the Emperor's Throne.  Hence the Roman Empire becomes the Haddron Republic, the Legionaries are replaced with kill-bots and all the other names and dates are filed off.  Thrown in a bit of The Man In The Iron Mask ala Darth Vader and a metric ton of chess metaphors and you have yourself a Doctor Who story!

This works much better than it should because Richards takes the time to develop Kesar, Trayx and the rest of the supporting cast as individuals before introducing The Doctor and his companions into the mix.  It is a small thing but it does help to increase the reader's interest.  It also helps that Trayx, in defiance of every other trope regarding military leaders in a Doctor Who story, is a competent, intelligent man who is not ready to shoot first and ask questions later when three oddly-dressed civilians appear in the middle of his prison at the same time a guard turns up dead.

This, ironically, is the book's greatest problem - the supporting cast are much more interesting and proactive than The Doctor and his companions!  It is clear that Richards had great fun thinking up these characters and there is a good deal of human interest - from the subplot involving Trayx's wife and her dark secret to the forbidden romance between Kesar loyalist Haden and Republican soldier Darlking.   It's a shame then that he gives Victoria and Jamie so little to do as the story progresses and even The Doctor is largely passive for the majority of the book.

Then again, while this is aggravating from a writer's perspective, it is also indicative of the Doctor Who stories of the era.  Victoria was always one of the more passive, scream-prone female companions and Jamie - even at his best - has rarely been utilized anything other than dumb muscle, existing only to do The Doctor's heavy lifting and to give him someone to be talked at when things need explaining.  Allowing for those limits, Richards does perfectly capture the voices of both characters and he does a particularly fine job of capturing the essence of Patrick Troughton's "cosmic hobo" antics.

Bottom Line: If you're a Second Doctor fan, you'll love it.  Everyone else will probably like it too, if they can suffer through Victoria's constant screaming and Jamie's constant grumbling while everyone else gets on with the plot.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 16 - Suicide Squad

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


As Ollie prepares for the coming battle with Slade Wilson, Sara tries to back him up only to be pushed away.  Meanwhile, John Diggle is called away by Amanda Waller to assist with some ARGUS business.  An Afghan warlord who Diggle once saved is believed to have stolen a lethal chemical weapon and it's felt that Diggle may be their easiest connection to getting close to him.  Naturally Diggle is all too eager to help... until he is introduced to the rest of his team.

Enter Task Force X - a program that offers time-off to criminals in exchange for service in off-the-books operations.  Everyone on the team is a criminal The Arrow helped to bring down... including Diggle's own sworn enemy, Deadshot!  With the lives of millions at risk, can Diggle afford to hold on to his black and white morality in a world full of greys?


The 1980s Suicide Squad by John Ostrander, the 2001 Suicide Squad by Keith Giffen, Gail Simone's Secret Six and the 2005 Deadshot mini-series by Christos N. Gage.


Why is a civilian like John Diggle allowed to walk into the cell-block housing Deadshot and the other Task Force X members?  Particularly after he told-off Amanda Waller and said he wasn't working for her anymore?


After spending the better part of Season Two on the sidelines, Diggle is finally given an episode in the spotlight and David Ramsey rises to the occasion.  Ramsey can steal a scene with one good line and the whole episode does a fine job of highlighting his talents.

This episode marks Michael Rowe's longest appearance playing Deadshot so far and it is the first episode where it feels like we really get a glimpse at the complex character that is Floyd Lawton.  Rowe captures both Lawton's death-wish and his dark sense of humor.  He said in an interview that the most interesting thing about Deadshot - and the main reason he loved playing him - was that there is something oddly likeable about Floyd and yet Floyd doesn't like himself at all.  To my mind, that sums the character up perfectly.

Though their parts this week are relatively small, Stephen Amell and Caity Lotz both capture Oliver Queen and Black Canary perfectly in this episode.  Pushing people away when he needs their help the most is vintage Ollie as is his desire to protect the woman he loves, even when she's perfectly capable of protecting herself and probably more capable than he is in a straight-up fight!  Lotz perfectly captures the comics' Canary's loving nature and desire to comfort her man, in spite of her frustration over what an ass he's acting like.


Lyla texts Diggle and asks  her to meet him at Room 1141 at the Ostrander Hotel.  This is named in honor of John Ostrander - writer of the 1980's Suicide Squad comic and the co-creator (along with Len Wein and John Byrne) of Amanda Waller.

The nation of Kahndaq is mentioned during Diggle's briefing at ARGUS.  In the comics, Kahndaq is a fictional nation and home to the supervillain Black Adam.  It is in the Middle East, located between Israel and Egypt on the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula

Part of the episode takes place in Markovia.  In the comics, Markovia is located in Western Europe between France, Belgium and Luxembourg.  It is home to the hero Geo-Force.

The blonde woman with the squeaky voice on the Task Force X cell-block is credited as "Deranged Squad Female".  Given that she is played by Tara Strong, and that the woman claims to be a licensed therapist,  it seems clear the woman is meant to be Harley Quinn - a member of the Suicide Squad in the New 52 Suicide Squad series.

The robbery that Ollie goes to stop only to find the robbers already killed by Slade Wilson is located at 5th and Giffen.  This is in honor of Keith Giffen, who wrote the 2001 Suicide Squad comic.

Diggle's call-sign with The Squad is Freelancer. 

As in Gail Simone's Secret Six, Waller's call-sign is Mockingbird

As in Ostrander's Suicide Squad, explosives are used to keep the criminal members of Task Force X under control. 

The idea of Deadshot having a young daughter, whom he provides for using his earnings as an assassin was first introduced in the 2005 Deadshot mini-series by Christos N. Gage.  This series centered upon Floyd Lawton discovering he had a four-year-old daughter in Star City and - lacking anything better to do - deciding to turn his skills against the corrupt cops and dangerous gangs threatening the neighborhood she was being raised in.  His activities gained the attention of Green Arrow, who - finding out the reasons for Lawton's rampage - agreed to patrol the area more often in exchange for Deadshot agreeing to leave town.

Gail Simone would later pick up on this thread in her Secret Six book, where Floyd actually visited Zoe and made an honest attempt at being a father.  He would later decide it was better he not expose her to the dangers of his life and he told her mother as much over the phone.

Deadshot is depicted as having a death-wish and not really caring about whether he lives or dies.  This is consistent with his characterization in the comics, where the kindest thing to say would be that Floyd has issues.  Serious issues.

The detonation code for Deadshot's implant is BATB-25.  This is likely a reference to Brave And The Bold #25 - the first comic to feature the original 1959 Suicide Squad. 

Dialogue Triumphs

Amanda Waller:
They're designated Task Force X.
Give me a break!  This ain't no task force.  Let's call it like it is.  Welcome to the Suicide Squad.

(To an arguing Diggle and Lyla)

Harley Quinn:
Do you two cuties need some counseling?  I'm a trained therapist!

Diggle: A girl needs a father.
Deadshot: Nah.  Not this father.  Best thing I can do for her life?  Not be in it.

Ollie: I can't...I don't know how to stop him.
Sara: You start by letting people help you.
Ollie: But he's going to come after you!  You're alive... because Shado isn't.
Sara: And when he does do you think it will make a difference whether or not we're together?  Let him come.  I'm not the girl he knew on The Island.  I'm not that easy to kill.  Together?
Ollie: Together.

Lyla: What about us, Johnny?
Diggle: Last night the man who killed my brother showed more character than the woman charged with protecting the world.  Good and Bad, it's not so clear to me.  One thing I do know for sure- Black and White - is that I can't ever lose you again.


Ollie and Sara are seen sleeping in the Arrow Cave at the start of the episode, indicating Moira's threat to kick Ollie out of her house in 215 was not an idle one.

Oliver makes contact with Alexi Leonov - his contact with the Russian Mafia in Starling City, last scene in 112.  By episode's end, Ollie with have cut all ties with the Russian Mafia and Alexi is dead by Slade Wilson's hand.

Waller's Suicide Squad is made up of villains Arrow was responsible for catching.  They include Bronze Tiger (last seen in 212 ), Shrapnel (last seen in 210 ) and Deadshot (last seen in 206).  We also see Amanda Waller for the first time since 212.  Shrapnel is killed after he attempts to escape.

We see John Diggle's current girlfriend/former wife Lyla Michaels for the first time since 206.

Ted Gaynor, whose death we witnessed in 111,  is seen in the flashback scenes.

The mask Slade leaves at the robbery scene is identical (if not the same mask) that we saw on The Island in the pilot episode.

By episode's end, Waller says they'll implant the kill-chips for the Squad members in their spines.

Ollie and Thea both hated swimming as children.

In the episode's final moments, it is revealed that Oliver Queen and Amanda Waller have some manner of prior relationship and that Oliver is aware Amanda knows his secret identity.  He also has some reason to hate Amanda but notes that she is much lower down on his list these days.

Waller reveals that Slade Wilson's assassin alter ego has been dubbed Deathstroke by ARGUS.


The flashbacks for the episode - six years earlier - are set in RC South, Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The majority of the episode takes place in Markovburg, Markovia.

The Bottom Line

For once, the interplay between Ollie and Sara isn't the focus of an episode nor is it the best part.  Forget a Flash TV series next season - I want more Suicide Squad!  With Harley Quinn as a series regular!  And Clock King as a part of the Squad!  And blackjack!  And hookers!

Bizenghast - The Game!

Bizenghast is a wonderful American manga by the amazing M. Alice LeGrow. Delightfully disturbing and gothic, it centers upon a young woman named Dinah who has the power to see ghosts.  She puts this power to work, trying to put lost souls to rest at the risk of becoming eternally trapped between life and death herself.

Now, M. Alice LeGrow is trying to develop Bizenghast into a video game.  The work thus far looks promising even if you aren't a fan of the original comics.  And if you are a fan of the original comics, it looks even more amazing to see the world of Bizenghast animated.

A Kickstarter for the game has been launched and will continue for the next month. $10 will snag you a copy of the game for portable devices and a number of special wallpapers.  $15 will get you the same for PC, Mac or UNIX desktops.  $25 will get you all that and your name in the credits! 

Of course there's a host of other more expensive options with ever more impressive rewards for those who wish a producer credit or dinner with the creative team... but $15 for a copy of a brand new game is a bargain these days and well worth it when you know you're supporting an independent project.  At least, I think it is.

Batman #29 - A Review

After my review of Batman #28, Scott Snyder sent me a private message on Twitter.  He thanked me for the kind review and also addressed my complaint that the Batman: Zero Year storyline had been subverted for a month to give us a preview of Batman: Eternal. This after months of relatively slow build-up and a lot of telling us how dangerous The Riddler was without really showing us much of anything.

The action picks up in 29.  Promise. :)

The action picks up, he says.  Boy, is that an understatement!

Batman #29 is pretty much all action and those who were annoyed by the slow boil of previous issues will be gratified to see that the wait was worth it.  Yet there is much more to this issue than base thrills - though the scenes with Batman piloting his new Bat Blimp toward The Riddler's airborne base in the middle of a thunderstorm are thrilling.  There's also a number of nods - in both the text and the art - to the rich legacy of Batman.  Some - like the existence of the Gotham City Police Blimps - are subtle and unlikely to draw much comment.  Others, like one of Capullo and Miki's splash pages - are blatant in their homage.

I don't want to spoil any more of this issue than that but I will say it was gratifying to see Scott Snyder do something with this story I don't think has been done with Batman in a long time.  This is a must-read comic for all fans of the genre and the character.  It is also surprisingly accessible to new readers, given how much material was required to build up to this point.

All-Con 2014 - Day Four

Sundays at a convention tend to be the slowest, most sedate days.  The final day of All-Con 2014 proved to be no exception.  The halls were relatively empty when the day's events officially started at 9 am.  Deadpool had very few people to serve his famous flapjacks.  Then again, given the reason why said flapjacks are famous, most people were reluctant to take them anyway. 

Still, Jedi Cole and Rick Gutierrez of United States of Geekdom were ready to kick the morning off with All-Con's most popular early morning zoo podcast - Jedi Cole's Morning After.  The fact that it's also All-Con's only early morning zoo podcast is not important. 

What is important is that dozens of people - fighting either hangovers or the sleepless nights caused by the people in the next room over who were up all night earning their hangovers - turned up to eat from tiny cereal boxes, enjoy a few laughs and win prizes like a never-emptying Guinness baby bottle!

Immediately afterward, the same room hosted USG's All-Con Wrap-Up show.  Joining Jedi Cole and Rick in commiserating over the awesome weekend were Hey Kids Comics! co-host Andrew Farmer and Cult Film Fanatics host Roy Buckingham.  I also got to speak a bit about my experiences doing panels and podcasts with these gentlemen.  Hopefully I'll be able to do the same again next year.

After that, I had to dash to my final two panels of the weekend - a double feature of Secret Origins: The History of American Comics and All About Arrow. With my final bit of hosting duties discharged, I had some time to take one final batch of cosplay photos.  A shame most of the cosplayers had departed at that point and a goodly number of people were already packing up to go.

Still, I did discover one lively group of Gothamite Steampunk Cosplayers downstairs waiting in line at the Neither Noir booth, who were willing to camp it up for me while waiting for their shot before the best professional cosplay photographers in Dallas.

I should note that this was one thing about All-Con this year that I think much improved on previous years.  This year, Neither Noir was allowed to set up shop in the lower lobby, near the information booth on the ground floor.  I think this helped to eliminate traffic problems on the second floor, where they had previously been set up on a corner before the grand ballroom most of the big events are held in.  In times past, it was not uncommon to have complete bottlenecks every hour, on the hour, as events let out only to run into a wall of cosplayers eagerly waiting to have their pictures done.  This year, I don't recall seeing or hearing about any similar problems in the lobby.

That is, I think, the best summation of All-Con 2014.  It was an improvement on previous years and it was a good time all around.  I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

All-Con 2014 - Day Three, Part Two

And now... more cosplay photos!

Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz

Han Solo and Princess Leia

My pal Glitzy Geek Girl and her friend Garrett as Jessie and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.

Marty McFly from Back To The Future

My friend Monica as Steampunk Faye Valentine

The less I think about this picture, the better.  The best case scenario is that an amorous R2D2 just had his little droid heart broken by the revelation that those trash cans were NOT R2 units.

You can never have too many Wonder Women.

Deadpool and Domino.


Jubilee and X-23

Dallas Fan Girl as a crossplay Yamcha from Dragon Ball Z.

Two gladiators from Sparatacus.

Arkham Asylum Scarecrow

All this fancy cosplay about, I felt a little embarrassed by my understated costume for this day.  I revamped my Slade Wilson cosplay - this time wearing a tie that had the blue, orange, white and black shades that make up the Deathstroke costume.  I wasn't recognized by many people as the day went on.  On the other hand, I only had one person ask if I was Nick Fury, so I'll consider that a success.

I'd heard tale there was an Arrow cosplayer running around that day, but I didn't see him until my All About Arrow panel that evening.  Apparently he'd heard about me and had been seeking me out as well.  We finally snapped a picture together after my show was over.

With my last panel over, it was time for another great All-Con tradition - The Saturday Night Burlesque Show!  As always, the show organized by Diamond Jim was amazing, though I must admit to a bit of bias given the disproportionate number of redheads among the performers.  You can blame Diamond Jim himself for that, as the man admitted to having something of a redhead fetish as he MCed the show. But who can blame him given the talent he is surrounded by?

The show offered a balanced line-up of traditional burlesque acts and more geek-friendly "nerdlesque" acts.  Nerdlesque, for those unfamiliar with the term, is burlesque involving geeky themes and characters.  Some of the acts split the difference, with Blaze, The Red Rose of Texas performing as Satine from Moulin Rouge (definitely a classical burlesque number, but based on a very geek-friendly musical) and Black Mariah doing a classic strip-tease to the music of Blade Runner while dressed as Rachael.  More traditional burlesque was provided by the ever-classy Minxie Mimieux and La Divina.

On the nerdy side of the street, the show's co-producer, Ruby Joule, once again offered up her famous Jessica Rabbit act.  Catrina Le Purr was a delightfully chipper Princess Leia.   Hana Li was equally adorable as a geek girl stripping out of her pajamas.  Angi B. Lovely offered up a hilarious skit as Daphne from Scooby Doo and provided the show's Tron-based finale along with Black Mariah.

Alas, I had little time to hang around after the showFor I had promises to keep and miles to go before I'd sleep.  Well, actually I had to run across the hotel to the Cult Film Fanatics Symposium of Shlock.  Hardly miles but I HAD promised to be there.  And it was amazing and hilarious, as I knew it would be.  Plans are already in the works for another Symposium next year.

Monday, March 17, 2014

All-Con 2014 - Day Three, Part One

Saturday was my busiest day at All-Con by far. It started with the early-morning screening of Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog - once again organized this year by Rick Gutierrez and The United States of Geekdom.  While I wasn't helping out in an official capacity this year, I was still on hand to riff the movie along with the rest of the usual suspects. 

I was, however, officially involved with USG's Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Story So Far panel.  Rick Gutierrez, Andrew Farmer and I spoke for an hour about the hidden connections between the various Marvel Studios movies.  I don't think I added much to the panel, save that I was the only one of our trio who had seen every episode of Agents of SHIELD and thus the only person who knew the significance of Odin (i.e. a disguised Loki, as of Thor: The Dark World) sending Sif to Earth to recover Lorelei - a frequent Loki ally/conspirator in the comics.

Speaking of Loki, the trickster himself showed up for the panel along with one of Captain America's back-up dancers.  Because even a god gets lonely.

After that, I had to dash to lead my own Introduction To Doctor Who panel.  Once that was over, I had a few hours to walk around and capture some cosplay pictures before grabbing a late lunch/early dinner - a necessity given my schedule had my entire evening booked solid.

Black Mariah (of Naked Girls Reading) on her way to the Ms. Star Wars contest.  

Sif and The Enchantress

 Enasni Volz as Slumber Party Harley Quinn.


"Gallifrey Stands!"- The War Doctor

Ariel from The Little Mermaid

A little dancing robot with blinking lights.  

Neil Gaiman's Death

Anna from Frozen

White Lantern Kyle Rayner

Poison Ivy attempting to restrain a hyperactive Riddler.

Another new attraction at All-Con this year - a Slot Car Racing Arena!

Wonder Woman, Black Canary and Zatanna after their race was done.