Archive for the comic books Category

2013 YiR: My 10 Favorite Comic Series

Posted in 2013 year in review, book review, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2014 by vagabondsaint

And now, my 10 favourite comic series of 2013, presented in no particular order (except #1):

#10. Batwoman (until #25)

Batwoman #17 cover by J.H. Williams III

I’ve already discussed how badly DC ruined Batwoman by losing the creative team of W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III, so there’s no need to rehash that here. I will just say that, while I’m not trying to hate on the current creative team of Marc Andreyko and Trevor McCarthy, they’re just not as good as Blackman and Williams were.  Nowhere near it, and McCarthy’s attempts to give us a little Williams-esque work with flowing, irregular panels and unusual perspectives just makes me miss Williams more.  But the book was great before #25, so it’s on this list.

#9. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman #20 cover by Cliff Chiang

Brian Azzarello is just not a superhero writer.  His work on the crime noir epic 100 Bullets was fantastic, of course, and his run on Hellblazer got me back into liking John Constantine (before DC ruined Constantine in the New 52), but his Batman and Superman stories were less brilliant (though the Batman stories are pretty good).  His dirty, gritty, morally-grey, doublespeak style just isn’t  suited to the brightly-colored, black-and-white morality of the spandex set, and that’s okay.

When it was announced that he was going to be writing Wonder Woman in the New 52, I was skeptical. Even with artist Cliff Chiang (whom I’ve loved since the Beware the Creeper mini-series – pick it up if you can find it), I didn’t think Azzarello could pull it off.  How could he? He’s just not a superhero guy!

Apparently Brian Azzarello knew that too, because Wonder Woman is not a superhero comic book. Yes, it stars Wonder Woman, of course, but if you’re expecting big fights against supervillains in colorful costumes and an arc of morality tales every 4 to 6 issues, you’re in for a delightful disappointment.

Instead, Azzarello made Wonder Woman into what basically amounts to a family squabble writ large – writ as large as possible, really, since the family involved is the pantheon of Greek Gods.  In its 30 issues so far, there hasn’t been a hint of anything like a supervillain appearing, just gods pissed off at each other over things that would land normal humans on a week-long episode of Jerry Springer.

And it works.

Kudos to Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang for making a book starring a superhero into a brilliant mythological journey, where the gods are every bit as petty, vain, short-sighted, conflict-laden, and selfish as the humans that are supposed to worship them.  I’ll be sad when their run ends this year.

#8. Superior Spider-Man

Superior Spider-Man #22 cover by Guiseppe Camuncoli

You should be reading this comic.  Why are you not reading this?  Hurry up before Peter Parker comes back!

Long story short: Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus, swapped minds with Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, and let his own body die with Parker still inside it.  Since then, Otto has been determined to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was, and oh boy, has he done it! He’s much more creative with using his powers, he’s become proactive against villains like the Kingpin, and he;s basically been kicking ass.  Go read this comic before Peter Parker comes back in a couple months.  Otto’s adventures have been hilarious.

And speaking of hilarious comics. . .

#7. Superior Foes of Spider-Man

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #7 cover by In-hyuk Lee

Boomerang.  The Shocker.  Speed Demon. The new Beetle. Overdrive.  These five has-been H-list villains have united to form the new SINISTER SIX! (And yes, they know there are only five.)

Actually, they got together because Boomerang promised them an easy score: procuring the cybernetic, still-living head of former crime boss Silvermane, reportedly lost when his cyborg body was destroyed.  Of course, Boomerang lied and double-crossed them, but how and why he did so makes for a great, highly entertaining read.

Writer Nick Spencer (who you will see again on my list of least-favorite series of 2013) has made these characters totally believable.  They went from Spider-Man punchlines to lovable-loser-type punchlines in their own book. I can’t say much more without spoilers, but trust me, this series is worth the read!

#6 : Transformers: Robots In Disguise and Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

Transformers: Robots In Disguise #18 cover by Atilio Rojo & Casey Coller

Yes, I’m lumping these two together because they’re closely related (events in one affect events in the other) and they end up virtually combining for the their big Dark Cybertron crossover at the end of the year.

Transformers: RiD chronicles the adventures of the Transformers on Cybertron.  The War is over, and the planet is now led by a coalition government consisting of Bumblebee for the Autobots, Starscream for the Decepticons, and Metalhawk for those who did not choose a side in the war.  Meanwhile, Transformers: MTMTE follows the adventures of Rodimus (once Rodimus Prime) as he leads a group of Autobots through space, in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron.

Notice what’s missing? HUMANS!

There are NO HUMAN BEINGS in these comics! That’s why these are my favorite Transformers comic series ever! Without people to constantly save and/or menace, the Transformers themselves have become much more human and much, much more relateable. They have been since the beginning, and this year they continued the trend with fun, occasionally dark stories leading up to one of the most organic-feeling crossovers I’ve ever read.  It felt like it flowed naturally from the stories, like they’d planned the whole thing from the beginning. . .but nobody does that, so that can’t possibly be the case.  Anyway, good stuff for Transformers/giant robots/good comics fans!

#5. Afterlife with Archie

Afterlife With Archie #2 cover by Francesco Francavilla

 

Starting in October, this series just barely made it into the 2013 list. . .but 2013 was a year that saved the best for last (the #3 book on this list also started around the same time and only got 2 issues in before the end of the year)!

Possibly the most unexpected Archie comic since 1994’s The Punisher Meets ArchieAfterlife with Archie is the brainchild of writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who also adapted Stephen King’s The Stand for Marvel Comics) and artist Francesco Francavilla. In this series, the zombie apocalypse begins in Riverdale!

Without giving away too much, it goes like this: Reggie accidentally runs over and kills Jughead’s pet Hot Dog, then flees from the accident scene without telling anyone.  A grieving Jughead takes his dog to Sabrina (the teenage witch), who brings it back to life – but as a Pet Sematary-style creature that bits Jughead and. . .well, things go zombie from there pretty quick. And before you think I spoiled anything for you, let me tell you: that all happens in the first issue.  Things get considerably stranger from there!

One longtime character reveals their real sexual orientation, some siblings reveal their Lannister-like relationship, lots of familiar characters become zombies – and they’re just on issue 4!  It’s like Aguirre-Sacasa goes into writing every issue wondering how he can make it more of a mindf*** than the last one, and oh wow he succeeds every time!

If there is any must-read book on this list, I’m completely failing because they should ALL be must-reads.  But if you only choose one to just check out, make it this one.  It is a horror book, so I know it’s not for everyone, but if you’ve ever been an Archie fan, or thought Archie comics couldn’t be dark, moody, and exciting, read this book!

I should also note that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was named last month as Archie Comics’ first-ever Chief Creative Officer, and immediately tapped Lena Dunham (creator/writer of HBO’s series Girls) to write a miniseries for Archie Comics.  If he gets the whole company moving in the directions he wants, maybe next year they’ll be my Publisher of the Year, instead of just being 2013’s runner-up (that’ll be in a later post).

#4: Life with Archie

Life With Archie #27 "Grill of Thrones" variant cover by Mike Norton

This might be my favorite cover of the year. . .

I have never made a secret of my love for this book, and 2013 gave me no reasons to stop loving it.

If you’re not familiar with Life With Archie, I’ll give you the basics: every issue is split into two stories.  One story follows a future timeline in which Archie married Betty; the other follows a timeline in which Archie married Veronica. Hijinks and the best soap opera ever committed to the comics page ensue.

LWA already made headlines with the marriage of Kevin Keller to his boyfriend Clay Walker in #16 (which is going for about $35 on Ebay in excellent condition) and its willingness to address social issues in 2012. So what happened in 2013?

Well, in Archie Marries Veronica: Veronica and Archie have left Lodge Industries only to have their careers manipulated unknowingly by Lodge’s rival Fred Mirth, Kevin Keller ran for a US Senate seat with Veronica’s help, reality-show star Reggie gets talked into causing fights with his girlfriend Betty to increase ratings (nice commentary on “reality” TV there, writer Paul Kupperberg!), and Veronica gets framed for corruption!

In Archie Marries Betty: Betty’s successes at work make Archie jealous, Veronica helps Cheryl Blossom start a breast cancer foundation, Jughead has to deal with his sister Jellybean’s shady new boyfriend and Midge’s difficult pregnancy, Reggie’s dad is trying to recover from a heart attack, Reggie runs ragged trying to take his dad’s place at the Riverdale Gazette, and Veronica is running Kevin Keller’s Senate campaign, which Reggie is hesitant to endorse, and Mr. Weatherbee is trying to find new love after the death of Mrs. Grundy!

It’s still a fun, occasionally sad, book. . .but it will also be ending this year with #36, so once that happens, you’ve no excuse for not giving it a read!

#3. A Voice In The Dark

A Voice in the Dark #1 cover by Larime Taylor

 

 

A Voice in the Dark also started late in the year, but it jumped right out of the gate and onto this list in much the same way that Afterlife With Archie did.

Why?

First of all, bi-racial female protagonist. From Seattle.  So, right out of the box we’ve got a decidedly atypical protagonist.

Second, the protagonist is a murderer. I’m not spoiling anything here; she says it pretty quick in the first issue.

But instead of being about her killing more peoplethis story is about her struggling with dark urge to kill as she deals with the normal frustrations that all of us encounter – up to and including stupid people.  How would your daily interactions change if you knew you could kill someone and probably get away with it?

When our protagonist Zoey (extra points for not giving the bi-racial protagonist a stereotypical name) starts college in a small California town, she decides to start a college radio call-in show. Her format is that people can call in anonymously and discuss their darker, deepest, most hidden thoughts and desires. It goes horribly wrong with the very first call.

Also, this small California town has a serial killer of its own – so what’s going to happen when they meet?

A Voice in the Dark is a well-written and beautifully-illustrated book (also unusually-illustrated, but I’m not going to tell you how), and is pleasantly grounded in reality.  It intrigued me from the very first issue and has kept me there. . .so much so that I buy an extra copy of issues for a friend to read!

#2. Sex Criminals

COVER OF THE YEAR! Sex Criminals #1 cover by Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction

COVER OF THE YEAR! Note that this is the cover of the FOURTH printing of #1. A sixth and possibly final printing came out last month.

 

Yeah, I’m on the Sex Criminals bandwagon. I bought the first printing of the first issue, then bought the fourth printing because just look at that awesome cover.

Sex Criminals is about Suze, a woman who discovers that time stops when she has an orgasm, leaving only her unaffected.  When she meets a man with the same amazing ability, hilarity and hijinks ensue.

My favourite quotes from issue 1:

“So I did what any otherwise good, emotionally-frozen, role model-less girl would do the day after rubbing one out the first time.”

“come to our awesome PARTY where for 5 BUCKS you can DRINK while SAVING BOOKS from destruction at the hands of the S***HEAD BANK that foreclosed the library oops sorry I didn’t mean to write the word S***HEAD on a PUBLIC POSTER”

“This book is dedicated to the brave men and women who love 2 f***”

Yes, this IS a mature readers title. It’s a coming (ha!) of age story, it’s a crime saga, it’s a love story, it’s hilarious.  The best part of the book is when Young Suze is forced to go to the “Dirty Girls” at school for advice on sex.  What follows is a montage of (hopefully) made-up sexual positions with hilarious names like “twerging,” “brimping,” and “auto-erotic twerging.” No way in hell I’m showing the images here.  If Chip Zdarsky wants me to, he can draw them up and send them to me.

The second issue is where the book really takes off, with the first Sex Criminals letter column!  My favorite quotes from that:

“EGGS. EGGS IS MY PROBLEM.”

“HI DANIEL YOU SOUND SEXXXXY.”

“Thanks for writing and KEEP ON RUBBIN'”

Those were the safest things I could say without needing a ton of asterisks.

Anyway, go read Sex Criminals, if you’re mature enough, and can handle sex and crime and funny.

#1. Saga

Saga

 

Yep, another immensely popular comic book.  My shop-owning friend literally cannot keep copies of the Saga trades in his shop.  When the third trade came out last month, he ordered 35 copies and took barely a week to sell them all.  That only sounds low if you don’t live in Seattle, where there is a comic book shop every 3 miles. In a really saturated market, that’s a lot.

But Saga, unlike, say, Fifty Shades of S***ty Erotic Writing or Twilight, is actually good.  Brian K. Vaughan has crafted a well-written sci-fi story of forbidden, unlikely lovers on the run from both sides of an interplanetary war.

Wow, that was actually a really good summation.

Of course, Vaughan’s writing isn’t the only reason to read this book. Fiona Staples’ art is just so beautiful.  She captures expressions and body language perfectly.  Her characters are detailed and lush, even when you wish they weren’t (Chapter Seven), and her aliens are fascinating xenobiological forms.

Look, I could natter on and on and on about Saga (especially considering that my favorite comics moment of 2013 happens in it).

But really, I’d just rather you went out and bought the first trade and read it.  Seriously, this book has a legion of fans for one reason and one reason only: it’s a damn good book.

In fact, it’s my #1 favorite comic of 2013!

VS – 4.22.14

2013 Year In Review: Quickies

Posted in 2013 year in review, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2014 by vagabondsaint

Wow, 2013 was a pretty craptastic year, personally. But, I survived, and here I am with my year-in-review stuff. In April, partly because timeliness is for the weak, and partly because I’m still bitter about 2013.

Anyway.

There will be longer, more in-depth pieces coming, but for now, here are the categories that only merited a paragraph or two! Enjoy!

Worst Comic Book News

That J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman were leaving Batwoman, which was one of the best DC New 52 comics at the time. Williams had been with the character from the beginning of her run in Detective Comics (with writer Greg Rucka), and made Kate Kane into a fully fleshed-out, intriguing character, and the only lesbian in mainstream comics today.  Blackman and Williams cited editorial differences and interference as the reasons for their departure, including not being able to show the wedding of Kate and her fiance Maggie Sawyer.

Solid writing by Blackman and absolutely fantastic, haunting, gorgeous art by Williams are exactly why this book was on the top of the New 52 heap, and while I’ve got nothing against Marc Andreyko (his Manhunter run proved he can write female characters well), he’s not Blackman. Thankfully, though, the pair planned to finish their then-current arc of the book, which would have pitted Batwoman against Batman, and end their run with #26.

And then came the. . .

Biggest Dick Move of 2013

DC decided to cut Blackman and Williams’ shortened run on Batwoman even shorter.  #24 ended up being the last Blackman/Williams issue, to make room for a Zero Year (insanely inane origin-mangling crime against comic fans story arc running in Batman) tie-in issue in #25 and the start of new writer Marc Andreyko’s run in #26 (with new artist Trevor McCarthy).  To make up for this astounding lack of love for the fans, DC announced in January that the conclusion of Blackman/Williams’ last storyline would be presented in the 2014 Batwoman Annual. . .written by Marc Andreyko and illustrated by Trevor McCarthy.

Apparently “DC” now stands for “Dick Comics.”

Most Disappointing Comic-Based Video Game

And the nominees are. . .actually, there aren’t any, because this one was easy.

The winner is: Batman: Arkham Origins!

A little backstory, because games this disappointing don’t just come out of nowhere. In 2009, WB published the first of a new line of Batman video games, titled Batman: Arkham Asylum, and developed by Rocksteady Games.  The gameplay was phenomenal, the graphics were beautiful, the Paul Dini-penned story was enjoyable, and everybody was happy.  In 2011, WB and Rocksteady followed it up with Batman: Arkham Citywhich improved upon the first game in every conceivable way with even tighter gameplay, a much larger area to explore, more challenges, better graphics, more villains, more heroes (Catwoman was playable!), and more unlockables than you could shake a batarang at.  B:AC won awards, accolades, and acclaims from virtually all corners. Both games, by the way, sold like bacon-flavored hotcakes.

Then Warner Brothers decided. . .no one seems to actually know what they decided.  It was speculated that WB wanted to put out a new game in the Arkham series every year, and Rocksteady let common sense triumph over greed and said no, they couldn’t make a quality game in that short a timeframe.  Whatever the story was, WB let their in-house studio, WB Montreal, develop Arkham Origins instead.

And they proved Rocksteady completely correct.

Origins is, and let me say now I did play the game all the way through to completion, a major freaking disappointment.  Story-wise, it’s a prequel to Asylum, but it feels that way in terms of gameplay and writing as well.  Despite having access to Rocksteady’s code, engine, and improved technology, WB Montreal made a worse game.  The fighting system is superficially, the same but lacks the timing and polish of the other two games, the badly-written story flat-out contradicts events in the other two games, graphics and game glitches are EVERYWHERE, the challenge system is counter-intuitive and counter-productive, Batman is a jerk, and the villains are either under-utilized or drawn out in gimmicky boss fights.  And as for all the hype in the ad campaign about Batman fighting uber-mercenary Deathstroke in the fallen snow while thinking about his dead parents?  Brace yourself: that scene NEVER HAPPENS IN THE GAME.  The one fight with Deathstroke is early in the game, indoors, gimmicky, over very quickly. . .and you never see Deathstroke again. The ads lied to you, kids.  WB’s marketing department lied to you.

But on the plus side, Origins was still better than Batman’s adventures in the New 52.

Favorite Comic-based Video Game of 2013

Surprisingly, Injustice: Gods Among Us.  So WB got something right in 2013.  The story of “our” familiar DC heroes being transported to a world where Superman has taken over the world was surprisingly good (and surprisingly violent; RIP Captain Marvel).  The fighting mechanics could have been a little better, but overall, it’s a fun fighting game with a great cast of fighters. Batgirl is really cheap, though.  Lots of unlockable stuff, the stages and stage interactions are beautifully-done, and opponent-specific dialog made this game crackle.

Also, with the sole exception of Wonder Woman, this game was better than ANY of its characters’ adventures in the New 52.

Worst Superhero Movie

This one was really close between Iron Man 3 and Man of SteelHowver, I have to give the award to Man of Steel, because it didn’t have two better movies in its franchise to fall back on. What was wrong with Man of Steel? I’m glad you asked!  I’m also honestly surprised you’re still reading this.

Anyway, what went wrong with Man of Steel.

SPOILER ALERT!

First off, if Jor-El is not dead and buried in the first 15 minutes of the movie, you are making a bad Superman movie. If Jonathan Kent is a jerk who tells young Clark not to use his powers to help humanity and then dies in a bad-CGI tornado after telling Clark not to use his powers to save him, you are making a bad Superman movie. If the lost Kryptonians who show up on Earth are as powerful as Superman three days after showing up, when Superman’s been here his entire lifeyou are making a bad superman movie. If those Kryptonians also threaten Metropolis, a city that your Superman has absolutely no connection to, you are making a bad Superman movie. If your Superman has absolutely no connection to Metropolis, you are making a BAD SUPERMAN MOVIE! If your movie contains dozens of buildings being destroyed and countless thousands dying without Superman saving anybody but one little family in a train station, you are making a terrible Superman movie!  If your Superman MURDERS HIS FIRST VILLAIN, you have COMPLETELY F***ED UP YOUR SUPERMAN MOVIE! GODDAMMIT THIS MOVIE WAS TERRIBLE!

Best Character

Still Batman, just like every year, and despite current Batman writer Scott Snyder being the worst thing to happen to Batman since Joel Schumacher.  Second worst, if you include the entire editorial direction of the New 52.

Best Non-Batman Character

Batwoman, before Blackman and Williams left.

Best Non-Bat-Family Character

The Superior Spider-Man. Yep, I said it. So, you ask, what’s the difference between Superior Spidey and regular (or Amazing, or Spectacular) Spidey? I’m glad you asked!

SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Superior Spidey began when an imprisoned Doctor Octopus, dying of the years of punishment inflicted on his body, figured out a way to transfer his mind into Peter Parker’s body, effectively swapping bodies with his most hated foe.  Peter Parker, genius that he is, doesn’t take long to figure out what happened. He escapes from prison with the help of villains he recruits, and goes to reclaim his body before the body he’s in, Doc Ock’s, dies. Peter finds his enemy, fights Ock-in-Spidey’s-body, loses the fight, and dies.

Yeah.

The Superior Spider-Man comic chronicles the adventures of Doc Ock in Peter Parker’s body, after the death of Peter Parker in Doc Ock’s body.  Ock sets out to be not just Spider-Man, but to be a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker ever was – and does it. From destroying the Kingpin’s power base to building spider-bots to patrol the city for him to hiring minions (that he calls “spiderlings”) to also poatrol the city and provide backup when he needs it to finally completing Peter’s doctorate studies, Otto Octavius is genuinely a better Spider-Man than Peter Parker was.  He uses the powers more creatively, manages his time more efficiently, and even makes an uneasy alliance with current NYC major J. Jonah Jameson.

But of course it all goes wrong, and how it goes wrong is hilarious, engaging, and creative. It’s a fresh take on the Spider-Man story that is, well, fun, a word largely lacking from mainstream comics nowadays.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

Well, that’s it for the quick awards.  I’ll post more next week, from Mississippi and/or Arkansas!

VS

Emerald City 2013!

Posted in comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2013 by vagabondsaint

Yes, I went to Emerald City Comic Convention (ECCC) this year.  Due to time and budget constraints, I could only go for one day, Sunday, but it was still a pretty good day!  These are my pictures from the day:

Magneto and Mystique, from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants Whose Codenames Start With 'M'

Magneto and Mystique, from the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants Whose Codenames Start With ‘M’

eccc2013b

HawkgirL, who you’d really think would be cosplayed more often but isn’t. . .

eccc2013c

I confess to this now: I totally love Flo from the Progressive commercials. She can sell me insurance anytime!

eccc2013d

Catwoman, stuck on rocks. . .I guess climbing trees got old?

eccc2013e

Gaze upon his works, ye mighty, and despair! Or just admire his Ozymandias costume, whatever.

eccc2013f

This is actually just one guy, wearing the best (and possibly only) Denny O’Neil/Gerry Conway costume EVER.

eccc2013g

In retrospect, pinching Batgirl’s bum as she walked by was a BAD idea. . .

eccc2013h

Lady Comedian and. . .her accountant? I dunno what they guy in the tie was going for there.

eccc2013i

In retrospect, pinching Batgirl’s bum while she walked by and was within radio range of Batman was a TERRIFICALLY BAD idea. . .

eccc2013j

Matt Wagner drew a neat little sketch on my Batman/Grendel cover!

Matt Wagner again, on the inside cover of my Grendel: Devil by the Deed hardcover!  He was AWESOME!

Matt Wagner again, on the inside cover of my Grendel: Devil by the Deed hardcover! He was AWESOME!

Those are my pics!  I also got stuff signed by Darick Robertson, Garth Ennis, Howard Chaykin, and numerous others!

See you soon!

VS  – 3.11.13

 

Life With Archie: The Bravest Comic On The Stands?

Posted in book review, brilliance, comic books, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2013 by vagabondsaint

AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I posted my last entry (Unhappy Trails:  A Farewell To “Scalped”, 12/13/12), I also had this entry in mind and had, in fact, planned to write it that night.  However, by the time I finished that entry, it was 4 AM, I was tired, and decided instead to write this article the next day.  That next day, I didn’t wake up until after noon Pacific Time.  As a matter of habit, one of the first things I do after waking up is read online news, and after reading of the events of December 14, 2012, I decided to delay this post. I think it’s been long enough now.

I’m going to go ahead and say this:  Life With Archie is the bravest comic book on the stands today.

Why, you ask?

Because they’re not afraid to take a stand on issues.

Take, for example, marriage equality.  (I don’t call it “gay marriage” because that implies an explicit difference between “straight marriage” and other types of marriage, and since all marriage is two people that love each other making a public, legal commitment to each other, I see no need for the distinction.)

Gay characters are not new to comics.  Underground comics have had homosexual acts and characters depicted since the late ’60s. . .but of course, that’s the underground stuff, and who pays attention to that?  Mainstream comics publishers largely ignored homosexual characters until the 1980s, when DC published their first obviously gay character, Extrano (“strange” in Spanish) for the mercifully short-lived series The New Guardians in 1987.  The biggest reveal, however, was that Marvel’s character Northstar, longtime member of the Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, was gay (because he’s already French-Canadian, so why not make him gay?), though his creator revealed later that he was supposed to have been gay from his first appearance in 1979 but wasn’t due to an anti-gay character policy at Marvel Comics.

After that, gay and bisexual characters fell out of the woodwork.  The Authority’s  Apollo and Midnighter were the world’s finest gay couple; Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, a major supporting Batman character, was outed as a lesbian by Two-Face; John Constantine of Hellblazer was revealed to be bisexual (though he mostly sleeps with women and is married to a woman);  Hulkling and Wiccan of The Young Avengers were a gay couple; the new Batwoman is a lesbian; and in revising their entire universe, DC Comics made Alan Scott, the Green Lantern of Earth-Two  gay (sorry, Jade and Obsidian, the guy who was your dad pre-revision is now gay, so I guess you won’t be coming back for the New 52). . .the list goes on and on.  By 2010, you wouldn’t think a gay character would make news anymore.

But it did, when Archie Comics, long thought of as the most traditional, wholesome, conservative, “safe” comics company out there, introduced an openly gay character named Kevin Keller in Veronica #202.  It made news worldwide that gay had finally come to Riverdale, and at that point, it was a surprising move but not exactly a groundbreaking one.

Until February 2012, when, in the pages of Life With Archie, Kevin Keller married his boyfriend, Dr. Clay Walker.  Gay kissing was still new to comics then; longtime homosexual Northstar had just finally kissed his boyfriend on-panel the year before (after almost 20 years of being out of the closet); although The Midnighter and Apollo had been shown kissing before then, Neil Gaiman had been exploring gay and transgender themes in Sandman, and John Constantine had been in several homosexual sex scenes, they weren’t as mainstream and being written by mostly British writers besides.  At that point, marriage equality was only the law of the land in six states and the District of Columbia, with many many more states having laws on the books specifically preventing same-sex couple from getting married, so it was a pretty bold move for “traditional, wholesome” Archie Comics to make at the time.

Just to add a little more controversy to Kevin and Clay, their story was that they met in the military, when Kevin was injured fighting in Iraq and Dr. Walker had been his medic. . .and this was just after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Archie Comics wasted no time jumping on that subject, and the issue containing the wedding (#16, if you want it; it sells for $20-$40 now) of Keller and Walker became one of Archie Comics’ fastest-selling issues of all time (which is no mean feat, considering they’ve been going for over 70 years).

But that’s not why I call Life With Archie the bravest book on the stands.

(SPOILERS FOLLOW.)

In issue #22 of Life With Archie, Clay Walker is shot while attempting to prevent a robbery. (Had to be the black guy, didn’t it, Archie Comics?) Luckily, he survives the shooting and the would-be robber is captured after being clocked with a hammer by the store’s owner.

In issue #24, Kevin discovers that the unnamed shooter was a previously-convicted felon who bought the gun from a licensed dealer through a “loophole” (it’s later stated that he’s talking about the gun show loophole).  Kevin then rattles off a few statistics (“gun-related homicides are more than twenty times higher than in other developed nations”) and announces he is retiring from the Army to do something about it. . .and his “something” is. . .

Wait for it. . .

Kevin Keller decides to run for the US Senate on a gun-control platform!

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) just proved in November that an openly-gay candidate can win a Senate race; she became our first openly-gay US Senator and was sworn in on Thursday, January 3, 2013.  So you could say the precedent has been broken. . .except that #24 came out in November and was solicited three months earlier (as all comics are), so the story was written before her election, when she was still running a very tight race against Tommy “I’m gonna kill me some Medicare” Thompson.  (It’s worth noting that Tammy Baldwin still can’t legally marry in her home state, though she can have her same-sex marriage from another state recognized in Wisconsin as a “domestic partnership,” so Kevin Keller’s still got one up on her.)

In issue #25, Kevin expounds more upon his gun-control views, states a strong view that the Second Amendment pertains to the right to bear arms for “a well-regulated militia” and asks “why do we need an estimated 200 million guns in the hands of this country’s 300 million citizens?”  (His number is actually quite low; the 2007 estimates are 88.1 guns for every 100 US citizen,which comes out to about 274 million guns in this country, a figure that has no doubt gone up, since there were massive spikes in gun sales every time a black guy got elected President.)

Now, I am sure that some of you are saying that it’s not such a big deal to jump on the gun-control bandwagon now, after what happened in Newtown.  You’d be right; that terrible tragedy has changed a lot of views on gun control for many people, as it and numerous other tragedies before it should have done.

And I’d agree if it wasn’t that Life With Archie #24 came out in November 2012, and #25 hit the stands (and my greedy little palms) on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. . .two days before Newtown.

And that’s why I call Life With Archie the bravest comic book on the stands today:  it took on marriage equality before the 2012 electoral sweep that nearly doubled the number of states with legalized marriage equality with a firm, unmistakable statement of support; it took a strong pro-gun-control stance before the tragedy that catapulted gun control back into the national conversation; and it’s poised to do even more with Betty-and-Veronica rival Cheryl Blossom having been ravaged by breast cancer and now starting up her own foundation to fight breast cancer.

I never thought I’d say this, but here it is:  I wish Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image Comics, and IDW had half the intestinal fortitude that Archie Comics does when it comes to addressing relevant social issues.

Life With Archie: the best-written and bravest comic book on the stands today.  Go read it, it’s brilliant.

VS – 1.6.13

Unhappy Trails: A Farewell to “Scalped”

Posted in book review, brilliance, comic books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2012 by vagabondsaint

Holy crap, what a ride.

After five years and 60 issues, Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera’s noir masterpiece, Scalped, came to an end a couple of weeks ago with the release of Scalped:  Trail’s End, the tenth and final collection.

And just. . .wow.

There is s spoiler below, just so you know, but it’s given away at the end of the first issue.  If you absolutely can’t stand spoilers, stop reading this and go read Scalped.  It’s that good, just go read it instead of my craptastic review.  Everybody else, you’re going to be a little spoiled.

Scalped is the story of a Lakota reservation in South Dakota, seen through the eyes of its inhabitants, most notably: Lincoln Red Crow, the bloody-handed chief and community who wants nothing more than prosperity for his people at absolutely any price and may have killed some FBI agents in the 70s; Catcher, the enigmatic loner who still follows the old ways and has visions of their gods; reservation officer Falls Down, who may be the most (and nearly only) genuinely good person in the whole story, and Dino Poor Bear, a single father with a family that is physically and/or mentally ill and who wants nothing more than to leave the reservation once and for all.  Our protagonist, our guide to the reservation, the eyes that show us this poverty-ridden, drug- and alcohol-ravished community, is Dashiell Bad Horse.

Dashiell left the reservation – more to the point, was sent away from the reservation – 15 years ago by his mother. Dashiell returns seemingly for no apparent reason 15 years later, angry, full of piss and vinegar, and eagerly kicking the crap out of Lincoln Red Crow’s soldiers.  This of course gets him pulled into Red Crow’s office, who decides Dashiell Bad Horse would make a better soldier than an enemy, and because Dashiell’s mother, Gina Bad Horse, leads the protests against Red Crow’s soon-to-open casino.

So remember when I said that Red Crow might have killed some FBI agents in the 70s?  FBI Special Agent Bayliss Nitz certainly remembers, and will do anything he can to inflict pain and suffering on three of the people that were involved: Gina Bad Horse, Catcher, and Lincoln Red Crow.  Agent Nitz figures the best way to nail Red Crow is to send a mole onto the reservation and into Red Crow’s organization to find evidence of wrongdoing and nail Red Crow on murder charges.  His choice?

FBI Agent Dashiell Bad Horse.

And that’s where Scalped begins:  Dashiell returns to the rez, and is revealed (to the reader) as Nitz’s mole at the end of the first issue.  That’s the spoiler.

Believe it or not, being caught in the war between Red Crow and Nitz is pretty much the high point of Dashiell’s life for most of the series.  This is a story that takes its noir very seriously: each story arc, rather than presenting some happiness here, some sadness there, a problem, and a resolution basically boils down to the philosophy “things always get worse.”

And things always get worse.  Unrelentingly, unrepentantly, unmitigatedly worse.  Poor decisions are made, worse consequences follow, violence and drug addictions spiral out of control, body parts get lost, Red Crow’s hands only get bloodier the harder he tries to clean them, Dino Poor Bear falls in with a bad crowd, Falls Down falls down, Catcher starts losing his mind, and Dashiell. . .the shitstorm around Dashiell is just terrible.

And it’s still one of my favourite comic book series of all time.

Scalped wears its influences proudly.  You can see bits of old Westerns in the behaviours of some of the characters (especially Sheriff Karnow of the neighboring county in Nebraska, where rez people go to buy alcohol).  The dialogue, character complexity, and noir nature are deeply reminiscent of my favourite TV show ever, Deadwood, which Jason Aaron specifically cites an an influence and also took place in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  There is also a bit of Garth Ennis’s Preacher in the writing, which Aaron also cites an influence.

Speaking of that character complexity:  Aaron nails it very well here.  No one is pure.  People do bad things for good reasons and good things for bad reasons all the time in Scalped.  There are no real heroes or real villains; even Red Crow comes off a lot like Al Swearengen of Deadwood, doing bad things for the good of his people.

That’s what makes it  noir, and that’s what makes it good.  Guera’s art is a bit too dark at times; some scenes are difficult to make out, but that’s a small complaint to make in comparison to the rest of the fantastic work done on this series.

Best of all, the ending is neither overly sappy nor overly dark – it simply fits.  Consequences come back to haunt everybody in the end, and that’s really as it should be.  No one gets out with clean hands, and some do not make it out alive.    It’s a dark story, and glorious in its darkness.  It’s a simple story made wonderfully complex by its characters – just like life.

So why are you still here?  Go read Scalped.

Oh, by the way:  Scalped is violent.  Nearly everybody gets shot at least once, there are vicious beatings, stabbings, and horrific crimes committed by terrible people (also by well-meaning people).  If you can’t handle violence, this is most definitely not the story for you.

Hoka hey.

VS

Worst Comics Publisher Of 2010

Posted in 2010 in review, comic books, rant, the complete opposite of brilliance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by vagabondsaint

So here I am, ready to announce my pick for 2010’s Worst Comics Publisher.

But first, the runner-up!

Runner-Up:  DC Comics

Oh, DC.  You had an excellent year coming and completely blew it to Hell.

The biweekly, six-issue miniseries Batman: The Return Of Bruce Wayne, heralding the time-travel adventures of Batman as he struggled back from the past (more on that in another column) was poised to be a huge hit.  It had a superstar writer in Grant Morrison, the return of a character everybody and their weird uncles loves, and a rotating team of fantastic artists.  How could you possibly blow that?

Oh yeah – it was plagued with delays so badly that a series that should have been out and done in three months instead took seven.  Even for that talent and character, people lost interest.  The delays threw it out of sync with companion books like Batman and Robin, and the release of the completely inconsequential Bruce Wayne: The Road Home one-shots before the final issue of ROBR just confused whoever was still paying attention.  And then, just to make it worse, you released the Time Masters: Vanishing Point miniseries, about the adventures of Rip Hunter, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and Superman as they searched the timestream for Batman. . .and it too was plagued with delays, which is death for a title that already starred characters no one really cared about.

That would be enough to make a bad year, but oh wait, there is more.

J. Michael Straczynski‘s run on Superman got people talking. . .for all the wrong reasons. It was arrogant, preachy, and heavy-handed to the point that the interludes, necessitated by health issues and Straczynski’s writing the much-better-received Superman: Earth One graphic novel, were liked much better.  While we’re talking about JMS, his changes to Wonder Woman’s costume went over like roadkill for dinner.  Don Kramer’s art couldn’t even save it.  Here’s hoping the next writer either changes it back or gives us a damn good reason for the change.

Other DC blunders?  Delays on The Flash (how does the Fastest Man Alive star in the Slowest Book On The Stands?), James Robinson turning the JLA into Teen Titans: The Grown-Up Years, replacing the all-ages Batman team-up series Batman: The Brave and the Bold with an all-new all-ages Batman team-up series called Batman: The Brave and the Bold (read that line again if you wish; I promise it won’t make any more sense the second time), letting Mark Guggenheim write JSA, and the Jonah Hex movie (which is nearly completely identical to Will Smith’s Wild Wild West movie.  Seriously.  The villains even plot to kill the same President, which makes me wonder what Garfield was up to that so many screenwriters want him dead).  The final nail in the coffin was their 100-page specials, which are just reprints of older comics.  Good for background info on some characters, but useless otherwise and, at $8 each, aren’t selling.  Just stop with the damn specials already, DC.

On the plus side, though, Paul Cornell is doing an excellent run on Action Comics right now.  And Grant Morrison’s Batman work has blown me away.

But, the saving grace for DC?

They listened to the fans.

When faced with rising costs, Marvel and DC both started hiking up prices from $2.99 to $3.99 per issue.  As long it was just a few series and miniseries, it wasn’t so bad.  But in the midst of a recession, fans took notice and starting dropping books.  When the unusually-large price increase started expanding to more regular series and virtually all miniseries in July, fans showed their displeasure by not buying comics.  In fact, industry-wide, there was a stunning 17% across-the-board sales drop in the month of August.  DC responded quickly, and favourably, by issuing a statement that they would drop prices back down to $2.99 in the new year, though, due to rising costs of their own, this would also mean dropping 2 pages per issue.  Hell, at least they listened and responded in a way that showed they understood the situation. (Marvel issued a similar “me too” statement 30 minutes later, but more on that in a minute.)

Despite all the errors and missteps, that single show of understanding kept DC from being the worst publisher of 2010.  No, that honour went to. . .

2010’s Worst Publisher of the Year: Marvel Comics

Oh, it was Marvel’s year, all right. . .Marvel’s year to suck.

Let’s start with over-saturation.  To help build the hype of an upcoming Deadpool movie, Marvel had Deadpool starring in four separate ongoing series this year (five, if you count Deadpool MAX) and at least 2 miniseries a month, plus guest appearances galore.  He appeared more than Spider-Man and Bruce Wayne, although he still came up short for the title of Most Overused Character (that title still belongs to Wolverine).  The once-beloved Merc With A Mouth became the Merc With Too Damn Many Books, and even the most hardcore fans were not willing to spend $20 a month on one non-bat-inspired character.  Sales plummeted, Deadpool lost popularity, and Ryan Reynolds, who was slated to star in the movie, instead signed a contract with DC to do more Green Lantern movies.  As of this writing, 2 of these books have been cancelled, which would have been great news approximately 20,000 dead trees ago, but now it’s too little, too late.

Speaking of cancellations, there were plenty of those, too. . .just on the wrong titles.  The well-liked series Atlas was cancelled for low sales after only five issues; the same for Thor: The Mighty Avenger.  Both books might have stood a chance had it not been for a sudden glut of comics titles on the shelf – a glut largely put there by. . .wait for it. . .Marvel Comics.

One can accept that when a company does a crossover, there are going to be extraneous tie-ins and such.  Marvel took this waaaaaaaaay too far in 2010.  It would have been acceptable if there had been a company-wide crossover, but, in addition to that crossover (Siege, which was terrible), there were also line-specific crossovers, like X-Men: Second Coming (which was actually good), X-Men: Curse of the Mutants (vampires are overdone, kids, let it go already), Shadowland (about Daredevil becoming master of the Hand ninja clan and taking over NYC; also, it sucked), and all of the 4 new Avengers-themed books, released to replace the previous 4 Avengers books that ended with Siege.  Each crossover had its own spin-offs and miniseries, very very few of which were readable and very few of which had any effect on the crossover story or the characters in them.  In addition to all that, of course, Marvel was also releasing the “Women of Marvel” one-shots, a new Strange Tales miniseries (which was worth reading), a slew of miniseries starring minor or new characters, and other useless pablum.

In short, in a time of belt-tightening and stretched dollars, Marvel Comics threw books at you like they’d forgotten that comics are a luxury item.

And Marvel appeared to recognize this mistake when they announced, 30 minutes after DC’s price-drop announcement, that they too would be dropping prices for 2011.

But, see, what they meant to say, and clarified in a later press release, was that they wouldn’t be putting out any new ongoing titles for $3.99.  They wouldn’t be dropping prices so much as they would be keeping them stable.  Same difference, right?  Well, not really, but okay. . .fair enough. . .oh, except that miniseries and specials are exempt from that rule, so those will be priced at $3.99.  And there will be a metric shitload more of them.  Hell, right now, Captain America, who’s barely interesting enough for one book, has two miniseries going. Thor, whose second ongoing was cancelled, has at least three going.  Spider-Man just ended one and I think has more on the way, in addition to the miniseries starring his nemesis Norman Osborn.  Basically, Marvel’s made it clear that there will be fewer ongoing series and more specials and miniseries coming your way in 2011 – an end-run around looking like they give a fuck about the stressed wallets of the fans.

 

A special message to you, the fans, from Marvel Comics.

Marvel, too, was plagued with delays this year; the final issue of Siege came out after series and specials that chronicled events that happened in that final issue.  Of course, said events were nearly immediately forgotten about, but whatever.  It’s not like Siege was worth remembering.

On top of all that, Iron Man and Reed Richards still have not been arrested and tried for the negligent homicide of Black Goliath.  This still pisses me off.

Oh, and Siege.

And Shadowland, which made me quit reading Daredevil.

Plus, The Sentry: Fallen Sun.

And the X-Men fighting vampires at the same time as the Ultimate Avengers.

And Marc Guggenheim writing, well, anything.

So there you have it, folks:  Marvel Comics, the Worst Comics Publisher of 2010.  Take a bow, Marvel!

 

Or, you know, don't. Just keep giving us the finger. Jerk.

VS – 1.9.10

Worst Comics of 2010

Posted in 2010 in review, comic books, the complete opposite of brilliance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2011 by vagabondsaint

So once again, because I am horribly lazy, I’m taking ComicsAlliance’s list of the worst comics of 2010 and added my comments on them.  Luckily, I read most of them this year, so I can comment on them.

5.  VAGINAPOCALYPSE TIE — Titans: Villains for Hire and Nemesis #3

I read Titans: VfH and hated it.  The needless death of Ryan Choi, who was breathing new life into the tired costume of The Atom, really pissed me off.  Worse than that, though, was the death-by-burning-vagina of a child molester.  I’m thinking he had it coming, but still, a character who burns people to death with her vagina?  Come on DC, I know it’s a comic book, but really?  I would love to have been at that meeting.

WRITER: Okay, I got it, it’ll make the book dark and edgy for not for kids.

EDITOR: Hang on, I gotta finish this bottle of Mad Dog first.  Alright, Whatcha got?

WRITER: It’s a woman named Cinder, who has flame powers, but get this: she burns a guy to death with her vagina.

EDITOR:  Love it!

WRITER:  Really?

EDITOR:  I meant the Mad Dog, but your idea is good too, all three of you.

This is the only way I can imagine this idea being approved.

Having given up on Mark Millar some time ago, I didn’t read Nemesis.  That choice has now been validated.

4. JLA: Cry for Justice

This JLA-spinoff miniseries was just terrible.  James Robinson had a stellar run on Starman (ha!), but following it with this dreck made me wonder about his sanity. This did not bode well for his JLA run either, which goes down in history as the first book to make me miss Dwayne McDuffie’s writing.  At least the art was good.

The theory behind this team splitting off to become more pro-active, more aggressive, and chasing down the villains before they become threats, is fresh and new. . .for 1990.  Since then, there’s been Force Works, Fantastic Force, hell, even Justice League Task Force, and numerous other eminently forgettable books.  It’s been done before, it’s been done terribly before.  Cry For Justice made me cry for a better writer.  Even the “shock ending” of Green Arrow killing the villain (Prometheus, who had blown up most of GA’s hometown, blew off his adopted son’s arm, and killed his granddaughter) has been done before, in Mike Grell’s much-better Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters.

The art was good and was the best reason to buy the book.  Other than that, there’s nothing to see here people, please move along.

3. The Sentry: Fallen Sun

I’m just going to say this right now:  the Siege crossover was, by and large, completely f’in terrible.  I hated it.  It didn’t live up to the hype, didn’t even come close, and didn’t resolve all the issues it promised to resolve.  Some of the 83 bajillion spin-offs were good, but not many.

The “shocking spectacle” in issue #1 of thousands of people being killed during a battle between an Asgardian God and super-villains was exposed for a cheap plot device pretty quickly, as once it’s established as the flimsy excuse that Norman Osborn gives to invade Asgard, it’s never referenced again. A huge tragedy is forgotten about so fast that it seems like it never really happened.  In fact, just about all of this series is inconsequential.  The two major changes to the status quo, Norman Osborn’s fall from post-Secret Invasion grace and the death of the Sentry, actually do have some consequences, kind of.

One of those consequences, sadly, was the publication of The Sentry: Fallen Sun.

The Sentry, for those unfamiliar with the character, was created in 2000, following a marketing ploy that labelled the character as a “forgotten” Stan Lee character from the 1960s.  He was basically an overpowered Superman knock-off with crippling mental issues and an evil alternate personality, which explained why he wasn’t just wiping out villains left and right.

Anyway, this complete throwaway character finally died in the “shocking” anti-climax of Siege.  In its aftermath followed this memorial issue, Fallen Sun, which was actually worse than Siege.  The retconning of the Sentry into Marvel history was terribly, as everyone shared poignant moments that never happened.  And he was somehow immune to Rogue’s powers, so she slept with him?  What the fuck, Marvel?  Shouldn’t that have come up a little sooner than a throwaway scene in a throwaway comic about a throwaway character?

To sum it up, this book made me wish I was reading Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose instead.  At least that book is hilarious in its terrible-ness; The Sentry: Fallen Sun is a memorial book that’s sad for all the wrong reasons.

2. Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal

JLA: Cry For Justice was the gift that kept on giving.  Like herpes.  The infection of CFJ gave us the blisters that were Rise of Arsenal.  It’s an attempt to make a B-level character more prominent, and it succeeds. . .just not the way that the editors intended.

Remember when I said the Green Arrow’s adopted son and sidekick Roy Harper got his arm blasted off in CFJ?  This is his adventures dealing with the loss of his natural arm and the gaining of a new prosthetic one, as arms are rather important to someone whose entire gimmick is shooting arrows at people.  To make things even worse, it was Roy’s daughter that Prometheus killed in CFJ, so he’s dealing with that too.

How does he deal?

By returning to the heroin habit that made him and Green Arrow relevant back in the 70s, trying to have sex with the same villainess that was the mother of his daughter and failing because he’s impotent, and hallucinating that a dead cat is his daughter and beating up a bunch of homeless guys that he thought were threatening it, and finally getting his ass kicked by his former teammate Dick Grayson, who used to be Robin but is now a friend-ass-kicking Batman.

You know, there’s a lot of potential for a deeply moving, serious story in the scenario I just described.  Said potential is left completely ignored, however, in favour of shock value, horrible dialogue, and cheap dramatic tricks.  Make no mistake, this is four issues of hilariously awful comics that could have been great, thought-provoking comics.

But hey, it’s like I always said:  if you can’t laugh at an impotent junkie beating up homeless people, then what can you laugh at?

1. Superman: Grounded

Oh, Straczynski.  I had such high hopes for you on Superman.  Superman takes a walking tour of America to get back in touch with the country?  Soooooooooooo much potential in that!

And you blew it.

Instead of learning, Superman seems to be trying to teach.  He spouts overly-worded monologues on simple moral points, he flies people into the stratosphere for asking simple questions, the bad guys he does deign to fight are overly ethnic. . .was this written by Republicans?

The one part of this I really liked is the last Straczynski issue, in which he states that one doesn’t have to be a superhero to stop child abuse, one only needs “a pair of eyes, a voice, a phone. . .and ten cents worth of compassion.”  While I agree with the anti-child abuse sentiment and that any normal person can and should act to prevent it, Superman’s description means that people with only one eye, mutes, and those too poor to afford phones are completely useless in the fight against child abuse, which is not the case at all.  Way to discount the handicapped and the poor, Superjerk.

The issue after that was one that I really liked, and I thought that maybe the series was finally picking up. . .until I checked the cover and saw that it was written by G. Willow Wilson, who creator-owned book Air bored me to tears, but she did a good job with Superman’s supporting cast.

Anyway, Straczynski’s off the book now, so here’s hoping it picks up in 2011.

Next up: eh, I haven’t really decided yet.

VS – 1.7.10