All posts by Noob of All Trades

Shawn Lucas is the self identified "Noob of All Trades". He is married and the father of three boys, two of whom help with their own podcast every couple of months. Raised on Atari, Nintendo, and Sega, he enjoys all games and will play all of them to the best of his ability, which is often average at best. Currently, he is most interested in Magic, Heroclix, and other games that he can play with Chris and his sons.

Marvel Comics Reviews (Week of 5/19/19)

Introduction

I mentioned in my previous article that I’m catching up on comics from the last six months. I think I might have said that I hadn’t read a comic in that time. That’s not entirely true. I read The Immortal Hulk and a few of the DC Giants that are available at Wal*Mart.

Now, I can also say that I’ve read some Marvel titles. X-23, Doctor Strange, Avengers, and The Immortal Hulk are all included in this review. I’ve been planning this relaunch of the web page again for a few months and I’m finally out of school again. In addition, I didn’t get a class first summer session. I should be able to get some momentum going before summer 2 starts. As always, no promises, but hopefully things get rolling.

X-23 (Issues 7, 9, 10)

You may notice that Issue 8 is not among the ones read for this review. I’ve had some…difficulty…in keeping up with my pull list.

The Good (Mariko Tamaki is one of my favorite writers)

I don’t remember when I was introduced to Mariko Tamaki. I think it might have been during her run on She-Hulk (which was just Hulk at the time because Bruce was “dead”) and the book was amazing. It dealt with death, mourning, and PTSD. When Marvel reshuffled the deck again and killed the newly-minted She Hulk title, I thought Tamaki was out of my life. A random search while sorting titles showed that she was, in fact, still writing. I have been a fan of the X-23 character since her appearance in Logan. While this isn’t quite that, I will read anything that Tamaki writes.

The Bad (That missing Issue 8 is haunting me)

This isn’t the only issue that I’m missing. It might not even be the most important. As I said, I’ve missed a couple of months of my DCBS pull list, so the Midtown order to fill all of them is going to be huge. But, this is the most relevant to this particular discussion.

The Ugly (Where’s the Pew Pew?)

Mariko Tamaki does it all. She writes complex characters around simple and easy to follow, but still compelling, plots. One thing that this book hadn’t had was the old punchy, punchy. I don’t demand a lot of that from my comics, but I was missing it in this series until she delivered in issue 10.

Doctor Strange (Issues 6-11 “The Two Doctors”)

I really wanted to like this story. But, I just don’t.

The Good (Mark Waid is still writing it)

This is going to sound weird with what I’m about to say, but I do like Mark Waid as a writer. I think there has been some Comicsgate nonsense surrounding him, but I don’t care about that. In my experience, he does a good job. Also, I enjoyed the first story in the rebooted Doctor Strange book about him losing his magic and trying to find it again.

The Bad (This Story Just Isn’t All That Compelling)

With all of that being said, I’m not into this story at all. I was initially interested in the “2 Doctors” story, but that resolved too quickly. I don’t care about who the second doctor turned out being. I’m not all that bothered by the fate of the doc’s demon friend. I just didn’t care enough to even finish these issues.

The Ugly (The Story is Also Confusing)

I mean, they can’t all be winners. On top of not being all that interesting, this story is confusing. Generally speaking, you should be able to drop into a new story and more or less know what is happening. That wasn’t the case here. Admittedly, I did skip the first issue. Even so, I went back and read them in order and stopped after the second reading of the second issue.

Avengers (14-17 “Something Something Dracula”)

The Good (When Good, this book is great)

There have been some panels in this book that have made me want to applaud. When Tony and T’Challa are both trying to deal with their vampire massacre in their own way. New Ghost Rider dealing with the aftermath of his freak out. The big reveal at the end of Issue 17, even though I saw it coming a mile away. Marvel is treating one of their marquee books very well.

The Bad (What is this Story?)

It has been interesting and fun. Also, it’s nice to see Blade and New Ghost Rider get some love in the book. But, I have no idea where this story came from. Sure, I’ve missed the lead in issues, so maybe there was some build up, but it seems completely random.

The Ugly (Everyone Sounds Like Tony)

When I started reading the rebooted Avengers book, I said to Chris that I liked Tony more in this book than his standalone book. I do like Tony Stark, Iron Man, but too much Tony is too much. I don’t exactly get that feeling here, but his snark is rubbing off on the other characters every now and then.

Amazing Spider Man (The Hunted)

Starting here on recommendation by Chris.

The Good (Nick Spencer is writing)

Noticing a theme here? I enjoy the art of comics, but I’m a frustrated writer myself. I associate more with them than the artists. Again, I think that some comic fans might be off Nick Spencer since Secret Empire. I understand why they did what they did there, but I can also understand why people feel cheated by it. Even so, I still like Spencer and was excited to see him writing Spider-Man.

The Bad (Kraven Clones?)

Now, this wasn’t a huge plot point. Okay, that’s not true. It is a big plot point. However, it didn’t take long to resolve. Even so, as soon as I saw clones in a Spider-Man book, I rolled my eyes.

The Ugly (Showdown)

Kraven was dead (spoiler alert). He’s not any more (spoiler alert?) He’s very mad about not being dead. And, he seems to be coming for Spidey (Spoiler Alert!) I, for one, hope that this is a big one.

The Immortal Hulk (The Entire Series)

Drop everything and read this book. Seriously, don’t even read this review. Just read the book.

The Good (Everything)

Okay, you’re still reading the review instead of reading the book. I guess that means that I need to explain myself and why I’m breaking the routine to only talk about how good the book is. Perhaps you read that I wrote in my Spawn review this week that this book is probably the only perfect book right now. So, let me explain why.

I seriously cannot find anything wrong with this book. And, I was a skeptic. Chris will text me periodically that some book or another in the series is starting to spike in price. So, it’s understood if I was skeptical. It would seem that Marvel wasn’t sure what they had with this book and have produced low print runs as a result.

The story has tinkered with some of Hulk’s most basic mythology. Even now, I do cringe a bit when I read that headline. So far, though, it has only added to the appeal of the character for me. The horror element of the comic fits well with the Hulk character and the Jekyll and Hyde dynamic that makes Hulk so endearing is there in prime form.

The art is varied and fits the theme. In one of my favorite issues, they had 3 or 4 different pencillers working on different parts of the story based on who was telling that part of the story. It was a nice touch and kept things fresh for what ultimately was just a “we’ve seen the Hulk, why don’t you believe us” type issue.

Now, we are getting into some more familiar Hulk themes, which is welcome, as well. Loss, trauma, mourning, etc. It hasn’t been handled with the deft hand of She Hulk from a few years ago yet, but there is time to grow into that. Even so, I hope they keep the horror element of the book as they go forward.

The Verdict (Marvel is in an okay place right now)

Marvel was hurting for a while there. It seemed like they had no idea what they wanted to do after Secret Empire. They rebooted (but didn’t reboot) with Legacy after they had just rebooted not that long ago. Then, there was talk of another potential reboot. I suggested at the time that they just take the tact of DC and let it ride for a while. Even though they are releasing far too many books a month (and seemingly increasing that monthly), their core of heroes is in good hands. They just need to keep on keeping on and hopefully the lull in movies for a bit will allow them to focus on the books.

Spawn Review (Week of 5/19/19)

Editor’s Note: I haven’t read comics in about six months. Since the only non-Marvel, non-DC book that I consistently collect is Spawn, I will include all of the back issues that I missed in that time. This review covers #289-294. Going forward, I should be able to branch out and include more books in this section of reviews.

Introduction

I have been a fan of Spawn since the beginning. I have discussed on more than one occasion that I remember going into the comic book store as a spry young teenager to see the fresh new #1 comic books from Image. You must understand that this wasn’t at a time when Marvel and DC were rebooting their books every other year and I wasn’t as much of an independent connoisseur as I am these days. That’s not to say that I’m much of one right now. Simply that I knew nothing about them back then. So, these number one books felt special. Hell, they were special to me.

Many of those books are now dead due to their creators not being able to keep up with the rigorous demands of self imposed deadlines or just not being very good. One, in particular, has stood the test of time and kept Image afloat at a time when comic book companies haven’t exactly had the best time of it. That little comic that could is Spawn. I have to admit that I was a bit worried coming back to Spawn after all this time, but those worries are unfounded as you will soon read.

Besides, we are getting Homage covers again. What a time to be alive.

The Good (Spawn is Still Pretty Good)

Spawn is Still Fresh: Sure, it shows some of the wear and tear of any comic book that has been around for over 25 years. But, let’s save the not so good for those sections. This is all about why you should be reading Spawn right now. The book is still telling great stories quite well. The Dark Horror arc is when I started reading again and it kept me interested enough to keep the book on my pull list in spite of some of the judgy looks and comments I got from my LGS clerk at the time. But, that store is out of business now, so who got the last laugh?

I haven’t been as excited about the latest story. That’s more my issue with the inclusion of the current occupant of the white house in the story. I have taken great strides to even forget that he exists. I understand that I might do so to my detriment, but ignorance is bliss as they say. The rest of the story has been fine, I guess.

Honestly, that hair is the most unrealistic thing about this whole story.

Spawn is Including Current Events: That’s not to say that I consider the inclusion of current events as a bad thing. Sure, we’ve had to see the BLotUS in our beloved pages. But I suppose that’s the price to pay for a comic that likes to dabble in real life for inspiration. And, honestly, he’s played a small role in the story. It’s just my issue that I have with the man and his methods. Your mileage, as always, will vary. The current events have gone miles to keeping the story going and fresh. See the previous comment.

The Bad (There are Inconsistencies in Art)

Two Different Artists: Initially, I liked the odd art of Spawn. It was different from what we are used to seeing out of the book. In my experience, it was always a hyper realistic art style. The dream like quality of the fuzzed borders and muted colors were a nice change. However, another has been bringing a more traditional Spawn art style to the book. It has ruined me for Jason Shawn Alexander’s art. However, that all looks to change as Chris texted me the other day to say that Uncle Todd is going to get together with Greg Capullo on a Spawn project. I’m hoping it is an extended run on the main book. But, we will see. Whatever it is, I’m all over it.

The left is what I consider the more traditional style of art for the book while the right is the the the more “fuzzy” art, so to speak. Both definitely have their advantages and disadvantages. I’m just saying that, for my money, I prefer the left. And, this is my article after all.

The Ugly (In Spite of it All, Spawn Feels Dated)

Spawn Feels A Bit Dated: In spite of all of the changes and attempts to keep it fresh, the book is showing its age as I said earlier. The ultraviolence and swearing feels like it is from a different era. As comic fans have shown, there is still an audience for this type of book, but it doesn’t help the stated goal of trying to expand the audience. Sure, you might argue, maybe that’s not a necessary or realistic goal. Realistic? I’m not sure. Necessary? It sure is. Comics and comic book fans are on the endangered list. Okay, I’m done arguing with myself for now.

The Verdict (While Flawed, Spawn is Worth Your Time)

Is the book perfect? No, but few books are. I would argue that right now, Hulk is a perfect book. Batman, when Tom King isn’t writing filler for in between his big and inspired stories, is a perfect book. Other than that, every book has flaws. Spawns are forgivable. The art style is inconsistent. You can argue that isn’t all bad. And, I sort of did. Also, the overall style of the book makes it feel like it is from a different time and speaks more to teenage me than current adult me. Again, we sort of argued that wasn’t all bad.

In spite of these flaws, you should definitely pick up this book. It is still very entertaining and well worth your time. If you can, get started with the Dark Horror storyline and read through. Besides, 300 is only around the corner and you definitely want to get your hands on that. For me, it’s actually more exciting than Detective Comics or Action 1000.

USFL Distant Replay (Take 2)

Introduction (Welcome Back to the USFL)

You may be awaiting my reaction to the NFL Conference Championship Games. The honest truth is that I have none. I didn’t watch either game. I know enough about the outcomes to know that the Super Bowl is again a contest that I have little interest in watching, so the annual Lucas-Mullen anti-Super Bowl party can go off without a hitch. Besides there are other football leagues, like the USFL. Wait, what? Didn’t they fold over 30 years ago? Read on, faithful friends!

Instead, I’m going to take some time to announce a project that I’ve been thinking about reviving. It’s something that I messed around with back in the dark ages of the internet. It is football related. It notoriously happened in the spring. Yes, if those easy clues (and the dead give away in the title) weren’t enough of an indication, I will spell it out. I’m bringing back the USFL.

Spring football? It’ll never work. And it didn’t. But, this time it will.

Why the USFL?

I don’t want to be that a-hole, but let’s face it. I’m that a-hole. Why not the USFL? Other than the AFL, it was the most legitimate football league other than the NFL. Sure, it had problems. Big problems as I’m learning by listening to the audiobook, Football for a Buck by Jeff Perlman. But, as commissioner and limited demigod of the league, I can avoid all of those problems and write my own narrative of the league.

While I don’t have a definitive “This was my introduction to the USFL” like Perlman, I did know about the league as a kid. I have vague memories of certain players and teams, if not actual games. It was an oddity from my youth similar to the World Basketball League.

If you’ve never heard of the World Basketball League, look it up.
That was dysfunction at its finest.

I certainly never considered that I’d be the one to attempt to simulate the league not once, but twice. Then, the internet came along. I learned about a computer game that would simulate football games like the old electric football games. I saw that a fan web page had put together rosters for the 1983, 1984, and maybe even 1985 USFL teams.

During its first iteration, the USFL Distant Replay only made it through the 1983 season, but it was quite an endeavor. Having learned some HTML (yeah, this was a while ago), I put together a web page for the main league and all of the teams. I don’t know that I will be able to maintain that level of dedication, but I want to give the league another go.

Why Now?

I don’t want to get predictable, so I won’t respond with “Why Not Now?” Except, I sort of already did, didn’t I? But, rest assured that I didn’t want to do that. It’s just that I’m a dad. The dad jokes sort of come with the territory. I can’t help myself.

My personal all time favorite.

Just like the why the USFL, the why now isn’t terribly complicated. I noticed a few months ago on social media that Dave Koch sports was having a sale on their football game. I also picked up their hockey and basketball game, too. I haven’t yet spent money on the baseball or golf games.

Well, I used the football game to play around with a theory that I heard that the Patriots would be just as good or better with Aaron Rodgers but that Tom Brady wouldn’t make the Packers any better. I’m not sure how much I believe, but it did speak to my irrational Patriots hate, so I went along. Results were inconclusive. Playing the game brought up the memories of my misadventures with the USFL. The game has rosters available for the league. I heard about a book written about the USFL that I’m currently listening to while I do my night job. It just all sort of fell into place.

Okay, I’m Sold

That’s probably not true. I’m a terrible salesman, confirmed by my job working in sales at a local TV and appliance store. Still, I hope there is some interest in the league still and my attempts to not only bring it back, but allow it to flourish into a viable little brother to the NFL. As I said, I won’t be able to dedicate nearly as much time as I did before. Still, it should be a fun time and stay tuned for the launch of the USFL Distant Replay (take 2) sometime soon!

Completely Ignorant 2019 NFL Conference Championship Preview

Introduction

A few years ago, to fill in some of the dead time, I started talking about college and professional football on the page. I hadn’t watched the NFL with any regularity for several years at that point. So, I came up with a gimmick of the “Completely Ignorant” NFL pundit. I actually used the gimmick earlier in the season for a picks column through week 7 or 8. Then, the realities of life reduced my picks to clicking team logos on a FanDuel screen. Pardon my French, but c’est la vie. Oh well, on with my Completely Ignorant 2019 NFL Conference Championship preview.

I’m going to do this a bit differently. Having spent the better part of two hours last night listening to podcasts, I am no closer to knowing with any certainty who is going to win these games. Therefore, I’m going to rate each potential Super Bowl match up on a rigorous scale that I’ve developed. Each possibility will be given from 0 to 10 “Eff the Pats”. For reference, last year’s Super Bowl that forced me to root for the Eagles was 10 “Eff the Pats”. Also, in all honesty, I was rooting for the meteor last year.

2019 NFL Conference Championship Crystal Ball (Pats vs. Rams)

Don’t get me started on this TB12 nonsense…

I rank this one 8 “Eff the Pats”, always 5 from the actual Pats and 3 from the Rams. First, we’ve seen this matchup before. Sure, it was almost 20 years ago, but it was the start of this Patriots dynasty and the start of my slow descent into madness. It is well documented in text and on this site, so I won’t go into it unless this is the reality that we end up living in after tomorrow. What you might wonder is why 3 for the Rams? I just fear that they could become the new Pats with a “genius” head coach and an unproven quarterback. I’d rather put that off for as long as possible.

2019 NFL Conference Championship Crystal Ball (Pats vs. Saints)

I mean, seriously, this picture makes him look like he’s about to say “Aw shucks” or he just said it.

I give this one the requisite 5 “Eff the Pats”. If the Patriots have to make the Super Bowl again, at least give us a matchup that we haven’t ever seen before. Plus, I like the Saints. Drew Brees is the original underdog quarterback, but he never quite got to the annoying saturation point of “humble” Tom Brady. And, Sean Payton was once the hot new replacement for “genius” Bill Belichick, but that never materialized either. The Saints are sort of an alternate universe where the Patriots don’t become the bane of society. Finally, as black and actual gold, they become a good surrogate for my Steelers.

2019 NFL Conference Championship Crystal Ball (Chiefs vs. Rams)

Then there’s this guy who looks like he should be a lawyer for some shady Silicon Valley start up that’s been accused of rampant sexual misconduct.

I give this one the aforementioned 3 “Eff the Pats” for the Rams alone. The good part of this is that the Patriots are nowhere to be seen. There’s no chance of them somehow stumbling into another Super Bowl victory by a last second field goal in the “most exciting” Super Bowl ever. I love this version of the Chiefs and are meh about the Rams. If the Rams win the game, I can worry about their potential dynasty later.

2019 NFL Conference Championship Crystal Ball (Chiefs vs. Saints)

And the real MVP this year, Mahomes is already on one name status for me. Bring it home!

This one gets zero “Eff the Pats”. I can rest assured in the fact that neither the old Pats nor the new version will have any chance to build on nor start their narrative as the most successful franchise in NFL history. Either Mahomes or Brees is okay by me as the face of the league for the offseason. This is just the feel good story that I need for the next 6 months before the NFL season starts up again. With how feel good has been performing lately, that means there is no chance of it happening.

The Verdict

Overall, this year isn’t as objectionable as last year. I had to root against two teams last year and they both won. This year, I just have to put all of my bad mojo into the Patriots bucket. Done and done. I won’t be watching either of these games as it looks like I will be digging out from under a foot and a half of snow and maybe even playing in it for some of the time. All of you who are watching, enjoy it and give a few extra “Eff the Pats” for me.

DC Comics in 2018

Introduction

I’ve done articles for Spawn (the only Image title I currently collect and read) and Marvel in 2018. The natural progression is to do DC Comics in 2018. Well, forget it! Ha! The old bait and switch! I’m actually going to write my thesis on non Newtonian fluids and now you all are going to have to read it. There is literally no other way. Nope. Once you click on a web page, you are bound by ancient internet laws to have to read it the entire way through.

Okay, I think we got rid of the nerds with the word Newtonian and the squares who don’t like comics with talk of ancient internet laws. We are free to talk to our hearts’ content about Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, Harley Quinn, Booster Gold, and I guess even Superman. Please don’t take offense at that comment. It’s just that traditionally Superman has been my least favorite hero. More on that later. Enough silliness. Let’s dive in to DC’s 2018.

Bendis, as he tends to do, has breathed life into an old and beloved character. More on that later!

DC is killing the competition. I don’t mean that literally. There are more comics and comic companies than at any time in history. Therefore, I might not even mean that universally. I don’t have a lot of time to read comics, so I probably missed 99% of what was released last year. However, they were able to convert a lifelong Marvel zombie such as myself to collect more than just Batman comics. In fact, for the first time, I’m collecting all of their major characters (think movies) and related titles.

The Good (DC Comics in 2018 killed the competition)

Speaking of Batman, Tom King’s Batman is probably my favorite version of the character. His writing has inspired me to reach out to him on Twitter more than once. He’s even liked and retweeted me once or twice! Okay, okay, nobody wants to hear about my Twitter nerdgasms. I’ll get back to the comics. I know that many didn’t enjoy the Batman “wedding” issue, but the whole construction of that book blew me away. Seriously, go back and read it with an open mind. I got chills more than once. It is incredibly moving.

I’m getting chills now just writing about it…

Bendis jumped ship from Marvel Comics to DC. It appears that one stipulation in his contract is that he got to steer the Superman ship. It started with the aforementioned Man of Steel comic. That single book got me interested in Superman in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been, not even during the All-Star book in the 90s (2000s?) and I absolutely adored that book. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for BMB and Supes.

DC comics released their Giants series in partnership with Wal*Mart. I want to say that I was skeptical of the “partnership with Wal*Mart” tag, but who are we kidding. Let the millenials have their war on box stores. I love the fact that I can walk into one store and buy a car battery, some peanut butter cups, and rash cream all in one trip. Plus, the books are great and great value. There is one new story and three reprints for only 4.99. The Batman book is reprinting Hush. For a cheap ass nerd like me, these books are gold.

The Bad (DC Comics in 2018 is actually pretty great)

Ha! Gotcha! More good!

Honestly there’s not much bad that I can say about DC Comics. And, yes, that is said even with my perpetual warning that I find it difficult to completely condemn almost any creative project. Honestly, though, there’s not a single DC comic book that I’ve read recently that I have not completely enjoyed. They are all just solidly good.

I don’t enjoy the character as much as I do when Greg Rucka writes her, but Wonder Woman is decent. The Flash has been fun enough to keep me interested. That is Aiden’s favorite character and he voraciously reads every new issue that I get each month. Justice League is awesome, even if I like the companion JL Dark title better, but that’s just personal writer preference. Scott Snyder is fine, but I like Tynion better. Speaking of Tynion, I wish he was still writing Detective Comics. I enjoyed that book almost as much as the main Batman title and that’s saying something.

There’s simply not anything bad that I can say about DC Comics right now. What can I say? I’m just a positive person. Maybe that makes me a terrible critic. Seriously, though, what can you say about them? Unlike their main rival, Marvel, they’ve ironed out many of the wrinkles and they are just doing quality work.

The Ugly (DC Comics in 2018 struggles to make a good film)

Huge asterisk on this one and it remains to be seen for Aquaman.

Years ago, this would not have even been a consideration. Comic book movies were, by and large, crimes against humanity. Then, along came Sam Raimi to make a decent Spider-Man movie. Marvel went on to perfect the craft of comic book movies, got sold out to the undisputed leaders of entertainment and Disney took comic book movies to a whole other level.

DC Comics is struggling to keep up in this particular arms race. While I’m not as down on them for some of the movies (I enjoyed Batman vs. Superman, sort of), the only one that I can say I really liked so far is Wonder Woman. The rest I tolerate and make rationalizations for why they maybe weren’t as bad as they seemed. I still haven’t seen Aquaman yet, but I’ve heard the expected mixed reviews from people.

I don’t understand why DC movies are such a mixed bag. As I said, Marvel has given them the blueprint. Their television series are supposed to be good. I’ve only seen parts of Flash episodes, but it seems to capture the comics pretty well. Maybe because they’ve put so much into their comic talent, they don’t have the resources to dedicate to big budget action movies. Maybe they’re just cursed. For whatever reason, Marvel and Disney rule this space and look to do so for at least the next year.

The Verdict (DC Comics in 2018 makes me excited)

I am an unashamed, avowed, and lifelong Marvel zombie. Marvel got me into comics, kept me in comics, and brought me back to comics several times. With that being said, DC Comics are without a doubt my favorite books to read, by and large, every month when my pull list order comes. There are a couple of Marvel titles on the immediate read list, but the rest are all DC books.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s me actually caring about Superman for once in my life.

Heck, they’ve even got me excited about Superman. Not simply tolerating the character, but actively liking and looking forward to the book every month. I never thought I’d say that. Sure, their movies leave much to be desired, but they’re not in the movie making business. They’re in the comics business and their business right now is very good. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store.

Marvel Comics in 2018

Introduction

Marvel Comics in 2018 have been a bit of a mixed bag. Perhaps that is being too kind to them. I have made no secret of my status as a Marvel zombie for life. Marvel properties, namely the animated Spider-Man and Friends cartoon and the live action Incredible Hulk television show, introduced me to those heroes. When I then started to collect comics, Marvel books were the first ones that I bought. In fact, until Image started as a company, Marvel were the only books that I bought.

I have since branched out from that narrow focus. As my wife can attest, I collect a variety of comic books from all three of the bigger publishers. Perhaps it is this branching out. Maybe I am just getting older. Hey, it could even just be that DC has focused more on comics. For whatever reason, this is the first time in my life that my top 5 comics are not Marvel books.

Though, they have been killing it with the movies.

DC Comics famously rebooted their universe from the mess that was New 52 a few years ago. Marvel has tried the same a few times over the years, including their own version of the New 52. As a collector, this has caused some confusion with the sequence and numbering of their titles. They responded with their Legacy “not quite a reboot” reboot which also offered consistent and official numbering for their more recognizable books. Even this was met with some internet side eye as their numbering schemes were brought into question.

The Good (Marvel Comics in 2018 is back to basics)

We are on to the good section of the article, so let’s keep it positive. There has been some good to come out of this mess. I mentioned in the previous section that Marvel books might not have cracked my Top 5 last year. That’s a bit harsh. There are at least two books from Marvel that are near the top of my read list every month. Before I talk about them, I’ll mention the other books that I’ve been enjoying.

Dr. Strange is one of my favorite Marvel characters and the latest story of him losing his magic has been a fun story. The Extermination story grabbed and kept my interest. X-23 is written by one of my favorite writers. Captain America post Secret Empire is a cool exploration of the soul of the character and, to an extent, our country. Iron Man and Avengers are both decent. On to my two favorite Marvel books.

Another name and theme change for Hulk?

I was skeptical when I heard the announcement about The Immortal Hulk. A horror book? Starring Hulk? Okay, I’ll give it a shot. I’m glad that it did. The tone of the book is completely different, but it is back to the Jekyll and Hyde roots of the character. Highly recommended.

Speaking of horror vibes…

I am not as much of a Venom fan as Hulk, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this title. I had enjoyed the pre-Legacy story line of the symbiote being sick and Eddie needing to cure it. They have continued with that thread while also adding some of the same horror as in the Hulk title. I also recommend this book if you are just getting into comics.

The Bad (Marvel Comics in 2018 is inconsistent)

Intergalactic Empire? Again, okay…

Perhaps the epitome of this inconsistency is Black Panther. While many have only discovered the character because of the mega blockbuster movie that came out last year, I have been a fan of Black Panther since the beginning of my comic collecting. After starting with the big boys, I moved on to some of the secondary characters and enjoyed their stories more. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m not enjoying this book more, but it just has not felt as fun or interesting as some of the others. Admittedly, I haven’t read it in a few months, so maybe it has fleshed out the concept better in the meantime.

Hot off the presses. That actually makes sense, but I meant to invoke the movie, so hot off the reels? That sounds dumb. Speaking of dumb, let’s move on.

If you know me at all, you know that I will give any creative outlet a chance. I’m a frustrated writer myself (imagine that, a failed novelist as blogger), so I understand all too well the crushing defeat of something you spent 10 years of your life on failing completely. Sorry, fell into therapy mode there.

With all of that being said, I didn’t like Infinity Wars. I really wanted to. I liked the first comic series and I loved the movie. I collected all of this title and even got the connecting covers. Then, I started to read it and it is a confusing mess. I don’t understand any of the motivation of the characters or reason for the plot. It was so bad, that I reconsidered my collection of the Infinity Warps offshoot books. I still have yet to buy any of them. Maybe Marvel needs to take a break from events.

The Ugly (Marvel Comics in 2018 is frustrating)

Worst year ever…

While I don’t want to sound like one of those internet guys who hates on everything, I’m going to do exactly that. This also probably is not entirely the fault of 2018. Marvel Comics has felt like a rudderless ship for several years now. They introduce new heroes, build them up for years, and then cave to the whims of those internet grumps and kill off those heroes. I get it. Sales drive industry. Perhaps I’m more frustrated with the grumps who won’t give something new a chance than with Marvel.

Comic books need to grow and change from their lonely nerd boy roots if they are going to continue. Perhaps the New 52 was the worst thing to happen to DC. Maybe Totally Awesome Hulk and Miles Morales Spider-Man were an anathema in the Marvel Universe. Spoiler Alert: I read both titles. They weren’t. Even so, comic sales have not kept up with the reality. Comic books are very popular except for the comics themselves. Maybe that is the reality. People that don’t buy comics never will. But, I commend the companies for continuing to try to find a new audience.

The Verdict (Marvel Comics in 2018 is in transition)

It’s been no secret that Marvel’s focus is more on its cinematic and television properties over the last decade. They have been building an integrated storyline over that time that they used to invest in their comics. Chris and I have had the conversation numerous times and I was under the impression that comics had become more or less a loss leader for the company under their Disney overlords. While that might be true to some extent, Marvel Comics still considers itself an integral part of the family.

It remains to be seen if that is actually true. When I go to comic shows, I do see people younger than me there. My kids are all into comics and read at least one title a month that I buy. Aiden likes Flash. Liam reads Batman. Quinn’s favorite is Teen Titans. I don’t know if they are going to continue to read comics past childhood. Maybe they’ll be like me and go into comics hibernation for a time until nostalgia brings them back.

Overall, I’m happy with what Marvel is doing with their comic books. If they can sustain this for a few years like DC has done with their Rebirth line, which has become the new DC universe, then I think they’ll be able to build their audience a little bit more. So far, so good. Quite an unsatisfying conclusion perhaps, but that’s the state of comics in 2018.

Spawn in 2018

Introduction

Seeing as how we are entering the 3rd week of the new year, I’m a bit behind on my 2018 retrospectives. Better late than never, right? Perhaps not, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. So, without much further ado, let’s start our look back at comics in 2018 with Spawn.

In the past, I might have titled this article as independent books, but probably not. I know that I’ve talked about independent books as a concept in the past. The truth is that I’ve only read Image besides Marvel and DC. Further, I gave up on The Walking Dead. Spawn is the only other Image book in my pull list. Perhaps that says something about the state of Image comics. More likely, it says something about me. Okay, on with the show.

The Good (Spawn in 2018 is surprisingly consistent)

I can’t speak on the past as comic book plots are notoriously inconsistent and require numerous reboots. I will say that, not having read Spawn for the better part of 5 (maybe 10), years, I still understood and followed the plot without a problem. That’s not always the case with some of the more recent attempts to redefine the various Marvel and DC properties.

I never read The New 52, but I’ve read that it was a disaster. Also, Marvel Legacy was pretty much DOA after trying to undo the new heroes they spent several years constructing.

Also, creative teams change quite often. Sure, you have the occasional team that stays together for a few years and writers tend to stick to a title for a long run. However, the recent trend seems to be to shuffle guys from title to title and even from company to company. I’m not sure if this is their attempt to keep things fresh and interesting.

Granted, Spawn isn’t all that different. Though, I will say that in the time I’ve been reading it, the title has had the same writer and artist for most of the issues. Also, Todd McFarlane isn’t as involved as he once was. Still, he writes occasionally and does a variant cover every now and then.

Speaking of variants, in this day and age of overpriced (in my opinion) variants, that hasn’t been the case with Spawn. Seeing as how I’m not quite the variant hawk that Chris is, I might be wrong. However, I am aware of many of the covers available and will buy the ones that I find interesting or attractive. The only variants that I’ve seen for Spawn were for cover price, which is great for a collector on a limited budget like me.

The Bad (Spawn in 2018 is showing its age a bit)

I don’t mean in the Old Man Logan way, either.

Even with all of the good about the comic, Spawn is beginning to show its age a bit. Seeing as how the book is 25 years old, that isn’t a surprise. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t notice it while reading the title last year. It is still a fun title in the nostalgia sense, but I don’t know if it is something that would grab my attention if it wasn’t already something that I knew about. It is absolutely a title conceived in another time. This is only a minor gripe as they seem to be in the process of updating the title in terms of style and content. It remains to be seen if that continues.

The only other negative about the title is also nostalgic. Those of us who were there at the beginning of Image remember delay after delay. Some titles came out months after they were scheduled. It did little to dampen my excitement, but others were understandably upset. Most companies have been able to avoid significant delays. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the delays in Spawn if not for the notifications from my online pull list. But, I noticed, and it’s odd that there are shipping delays in the age of on demand printing

The Ugly (Spawn in 2018 is a bargain)

Speaking of bargains, why can’t I get this book for cover price?

How is the comic book being a bargain an ugly? Also, $2.99 for a comic book? Is that really that much of a bargain? Let me answer those questions in reverse order. While I decry the price of comics, they actually haven’t increased as much relative to other things over the last 2 or 3 decades. Would I like nickel or dime comics? Sure, but that’s simply not realistic. Plus, Spawn is on the lower end of the price spectrum.

As far as the ugly, it is alluded to in the picture above. Let’s take one more nostalgic trip back in time. When I started reading Spawn again a couple of years ago, I noticed that it was close to issue #300. That inspired me to try to go back to fill in the issues I was missing. For the most part, that was easy. What is not easy is there is a run of book around the time of the cover in the picture that run anywhere from 20 dollars to over 100. As someone who doesn’t want to pay 3.99 for a book, 20 bucks is way too much. As I said in the previous section, we live in an age of on demand everything. Why can’t they reprint these books so that people can get their hands on them for cheaper than what the secondary market charges?

The Verdict (Spawn in 2018 is still worth collecting)

Sure, it is 25 years old and showing its age. But, they seem to be trying to change that somewhat. As with most renovations in comics, we will see if it continues, but I like what they’re doing so far. Focusing on Spawn’s daughter has proven to be an interesting story. There have been delays recently, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I think that they’ve figured it out and it is just one month delay that has continued for the past few months. The older issues are very expensive, but that’s the same with any collectibles. Overall, the story is strong, the art is cool, and the book is cheap compared to other books on the market today. If you are looking for something new and potentially different from other comic books, definitely pick up the most recent issue.

Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links First Impressions

Note: Yu Gi Oh Duels Links Image found on http://www.konami.com

Introduction

In my last article, I wrote about my experiences in the paper version of Yu Gi Oh! That reminded me that I had learned of a digital game available on Steam. My lab assistant from last semester also played the game a couple of times before class. Since this week’s podcast centered around Yu Gi Oh, I figured it was a good time for me to finally try the game myself and give my impressions. I have just finished playing through the tutorial and a couple of the “quizzes” for about an hour.

Note: I have not done any PvP dueling yet, so I can’t discuss things like matchmaking. However, as this web page makes perfectly clear, I’m not much of a competitive gamer, so if you’re coming here for that analysis, you’re in the wrong place. I can talk about how much fun I had playing the game and whether or not the game will make it into my daily rotation of digital card games.

The Good (Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links is Polished)

I’m not sure how long the game has been available, but it is a well designed and polished game. Given the target audience, I didn’t expect much. I thought it might just end up being a Hearthstone clone. This isn’t an unreasonable expectation. Many digital card games coming out are using the basics of Hearthstone as their template. It has slowed down a bit, but Hearthstone was a force on the level of Fortnite not too long ago. It makes sense for games to emulate it.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yu Gi Oh! is a completely different experience from other those games. First, the game appears to try to mimic the experience of the show for fans. The board is not simply a top down view like other card games. It’s a small touch, but different enough to make it noteworthy.

As this screenshot shows, there are some decent animations in the game, too.

Add in decent voice acting for the characters that almost made me feel like I was watching an episode of the show. The game has a very different feel to it from other card games. On the strength of the game design alone, I recommend people try it. However, those aren’t the only things that make it worth your time. Like many card games, it is initially very noob friendly.

There is a quick tutorial that deals with the basics of the game, monster summoning and spell/trap cards. While the tutorial is short, it is helpful. I think I’ve mentioned more than once that I never quite understood Yu Gi Oh! to any satisfactory level. This tutorial changed that. There are also quizzes to help you understand more of the game. Even better, the quizzes give you prizes to help advance in the game.

The Bad (Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links is a digital card game)

Admittedly, this isn’t much of a “bad”. You might even argue that it isn’t a bad at all. Yu Gi Oh! Duel Links is a digital card game. Okay, we are in agreement. As such, we have to take the bad with the good. I’m only including the bad to stay on format. Why? Is it even that great of a gimmick?

Plus, this movie is 50 years old. Who on the internet has even seen it at this point?

The tutorial is short. Maybe for some of you that’s a good thing. As a longtime novice in the game, this worried me. Also, I enjoyed the spectacle of the tutorial. Hmm, maybe I would like the show, but probably not. As a card game tutorial, it was fun. As a full length show, not so much. But, I digress. My main point is that I wish the tutorial was a bit longer.

Another point of contention follows directly from the idea about the show probably not being very good. I had to walk away from the game for a few minutes. When I came back, I started to notice the background music. Rarely is that a good thing. It wasn’t this time. The music is annoying.

Two weak “bad” points about the game and I still nothing about why it is “bad” that the game is a digital card game. Patience, I’m getting there. After finishing the tutorial, the main game opens. On the right hand side, there is “news”. Part of the “news” was a welcome pack of 3 packs plus an ultra rare card. Only available for 7 days! Sure, it was only 99 cents, but this constant push to get people to pay real money for digital goods is annoying to me. Plus, the packs only contained 3 cards.

The Verdict (Yu Gi Oh Duel Links is Fun)

I reiterate that I haven’t played any PvP duels yet, so I can’t comment on that aspect of the game. What I saw of the interface I liked. I could only come up with two minor bad points and the one thing that irritates me about all digital card games. There is no ugly as far as I could see. Usually, those show up pretty early in the experience. I can say with confidence that I will be playing more of this game. I’m not sure yet if it will make it into the rotation as a regular, but maybe I’ll sign the boys up and we can play a few games of digital Yu Gi Oh!

Yu gi oh!

Introduction

Those who know me know that I have always loved trading card games. I have been playing Magic: the Gathering for a long time. Recently, I discovered that might have been since the beginning of that particular game. During my ill fated semester as a student the first time at the University of Pittsburgh, I had a couple of friends who introduced me to the game. I then bought a beginners “Portal” deck to try to get Christine to play the game.

I had just moved from Erie to Massachusetts at the time and I didn’t know many other people. Ultimately, that experiment ended in futility for one reason or another. I’m not sure exactly why and it doesn’t matter in the context of this article. There are several reasons. First, I met and then reconnected with Chris, who became my nerd (and MtG) buddy for the last decade. Then, the boys have grown up and started to develop some of the same interests as me, including the card games. Finally, Christine has also come around and joined us for a few of our nerdy pursuits, most notably a Dungeons and Dragons game.

You got MtG in my D&D! You got D&D in my MtG! Two great tastes that go great together? I honestly don’t know because I haven’t tried it yet, but I really want to!

For the Love of the Games?

I mentioned my love and enjoyment of card games in the introduction. I only “proved” that love by sort of humble bragging that I’m old enough to have possibly seen a Mox or Lotus played at face value. Oops, I did it again. I can’t say one way or another. If I was truly bragging, I’d say it unequivocally. All I can say is that I’ve been playing MtG since 1993, so the possibility exists that I either saw a Mox played or played one myself.

You’d be correct to assert that as proof of my love of “trading card games” is flimsy and inconclusive. At best, it simply shows an enjoyment of one particular game. I can assure you that I have played (and sometimes simply collected because I couldn’t figure out the convoluted rules set of some of them) any and all trading card game that I could find over the years. Many of them have suffered the same unfortunate fate of my old comic collection and ended up at the bottom of a recycling bin, so I can’t remember most of them.

One that I have in mind is an old out of print Star Wars card game. I could only find one person (before kids and Christine started to show interest again) to play MtG in my life. There was no chance of finding anyone at all to play that game. I often thought that I was the only person in the world to have purchased the game. Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, I can no longer make that claim. There is at least one community out there that is developing expansions for the old game and it might just be enough to get me interested again. Check them out at https://swtcgidc.wordpress.com/

This is not the set that I had, but it is the same game. It always looked like a fun game but, as I say, I never actually got the chance to play it.

The Good (Yu Gi Oh is an established game)

None of that was ever a problem with Yu Gi Oh. Aiden was the first to find the game because he is like me and likes to try new games. He introduced us to Heroclix. He introduced me to Yu Gi Oh. Liam may have already known about the game, but has always been a PokeKid at heart, so he never gave it a second though. The point is that we got into Yu Gi Oh after it was already proven. There was little chance that the game would go defunct (or at least in a deep sleep) after I became invested in the game.

Even with that reassurance, it took me a while to actually become invested in the game. Aiden does try new things but, sometimes, his interest is short lived. I might still be left with cards that I bought for a game he no longer finds interesting. In fairness, that did happen a couple of times, but he has always come back to the game eventually.

After all, how can you stay away from a game that releases cards like Exodia?

It also took me a while to warm to Yu Gi Oh because of things I heard from other people. There were the warnings of power creep, but that doesn’t bother me too much. It does to an extent because in my time in World of Warcraft. I saw critical damage go from the low hundreds to over a million before they scaled that back. Numerous warning to keep my kids away from the game kept me away from the game. I never got a good reason why other than maybe the aforementioned power creep. The warning was so ominous, that it did build a nest in the back of my brain and settled there.

The Bad (Yu Gi Oh is complicated)

I did finally break on Yu Gi Oh and buy a preconstructed deck. I actually bought two, but I’ve only ever played one. Aiden was helpful and made the deck better by combining both of the decks for me. Even with that help, I think I can count the number of times that I’ve actually won a game of Yu Gi Oh on one hand. Note Pun absolutely not intended.

Some of that is traceable to the fact that I’m not that interested in the game. I only started to collect because by that point both Aiden and Quinn were collecting cards and I’m always looking for different ways to spend time with my kids. Might as well jump on the Yu Gi Oh train before it leaves the station for good.

Would you look at that? There is an actual Yu Gi Oh train.

The main problem is that I find Yu Gi Oh confusing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dumb. I’m not a professional at any of the games that I play, but I can understand the intricacies of those games quite well. Not so for Yu Gi Oh. I don’t understand how to build a deck properly. Up until recently, I didn’t completely understand how the turn structure worked. I still am not certain how to tribute summon monsters. I am just a disaster when it comes to this game. But, it does give Quinn a kick to know that he’s beaten me every single time we’ve played.

The Ugly (Yu Gi Oh still has a short shelf life)

Aiden still enjoys Yu Gi Oh enough that it devastated him when the washing machine destroyed his number cards. We bought him some new ones for Christmas. He, Quinn, and I played a three way match the other day (not with his number deck as he can’t find the rest of that deck. Quinn had a bit of a flip out because he lost that match. I actually won!

The point is that I don’t know how much Aiden will still enjoy the game once he goes off to middle school and his time is devoted to sports. I’ve already seen it a bit with Liam and his dedication to theater. We hardly ever get to do anything together However, he did ask to record some video this weekend because I got a new cord for our video capture card, but we didn’t get around to it. Either next weekend or the following, for sure.

We’ll get together then…

The Verdict

While Yu Gi Oh isn’t by any stretch of the imagination my favorite trading card game, I wish that I hadn’t waited so long to get a deck so that I could play against the boys at least. It can be a fun game and it gives me another excuse to have quality time with them. As kids get older, their interests change and you become less and less of a part of their lives until you don’t exist at all for a few years during high school and college. That has changed some in recent generations, but there’s still that risk. Oh well, for now I will appreciate the time that I have and try to get better at the game to give them more of a reason to want to play.

Completely Ignorant NFL Week 7 Picks

Introduction

Another week, another picks column. Another week, nothing but the picks column. Like I said a couple of week ago, I might need to consider changing the name of the web page. But, and this is important, two thing have happened. Chris is back from his trip to California, so we can record on the weekends. And, our weekend craziness is going to take a break with soccer finishing up soon and Liam’s play performance happening next month. That will free up a lot of time for us to record, too. Oh, I thought of another thing. Winter break happens for all of us in December and continues into January for me. That means we will definitely get this thing on track for the new year.

Until then, I’ll continue to amuse and amaze with my weekly picks column. After a 10-5 record two weeks ago, I went 11-4 straight up last week. I’m also plus .500 against the spread over the last two weeks.  Either what I said last week about the first 4 weeks of the season being crazy due to a shortened preseason and I’m getting the hang of things or the gambling gods are setting me up for a fall in the coming weeks. We shall see.

The Cosmic Joke of Thursday Night Football

A couple of weeks ago I stated that I would henceforth just be picking home teams on Thursday night football as they have an advantage and I’m quite busy during the week to pick a game before Thursday night. Well, the gambling gods responded to that challenge by making the Giants the home team last week and then the Cardinals this week. I suppose that says something for making such broad and sweeping proclamations. Needless to say, I did not pick the Cardinals this week.

Week 7 Picks

To hit my deadline, I need to just list the picks again. Going to scarecrow in the park and then a 2 year old’s birthday party.

Chargers over Titans in London

Pats beat the Bears, but I have Mitch in daily fantasy so hopefully their defense still stinks.

Colts roll the D3 Bills

Detroit steals a win in Miami

Vikes beat a surprisingly frisky Jets

Browns over the Bucs. What can I say other than God Bless the Browns.

Jags nip the Texans

C’mon New Orleans, beat the Rats

LA Rams stay undefeated against the 49ers

Dallas over the Racists

Chefs get back on track against Cincy

And, the Falcons beat the hapless Gynts

The Verdict

Nothing here to really get excited about. Certainly nothing on the order of the Chefs/Pats game last week. The Steelers are on a bye, which gives me the chance to talk about how I’ve gone from a life long Steelers fan to actively despising the team. See you next weekend.