Yearly Archives: 2012

On writing regularly and reading comic books

Writing regularly is something I’ve always wanted to be able to do but like most things I have trouble with, it’s the lack of discipline that gets me.

Take this blog for instance. I randomly think of things to write about while I’m idling or commuting or waiting in line or any of the dozen or so other opportunities during the day when my mind wanders, but because of laziness and/or lack of discipline, these ideas never get very far. I think one of the problems is that because this is a personal blog, I don’t have any focus. That is, in this space I can literally write about anything I want so I end up not writing anything. Does that make sense?

Anyway what I decided was: I’ll just start a new blog. What the hell right? But this time, I’ll focus on a topic for the blog. Restrictions breed creativity, or something. I needed to choose a topic that (a) I was fairly knowledgeable and passionate about; and (b) I would have something regarding that topic to write about on a regular basis. I’ve actually tried this before for Magic the Gathering, since I pretty much enjoy that game a lot, but the problem with MTG was that I was an irregular player and rarely had something new to write about. So I’m going to choose something else right now.

The easiest area that covers the above requirements for me right now is easily reading comic books. I read a ton of them and I enjoy them and I follow the regular weekly releases and am usually excited for the next week of releases. So it seems like something I would be able to write regularly about. So, here we go: I Read Comic Books (originally I was just going to go with a wordpress.com site, but I was like aw what the hell, domains are cheap)

Hopefully it helps me get into the groove of regular writing, and somehow that groove propagates back to this blog.

Cheetergarmi

When I was growing up, our mom would make this sandwich spread concoction that was a mix of cheese, butter, sugar and milk. I loved it, and when my mom told young me what the ingredients are I quickly gave it the name “Cheetergarmi” (I’m sure you can figure it out). She still occasionally makes some for us to this day, just had some for a midnight snack!

Also, I pretty much wrote this post so that I could have a Google search term that returns a single hit to a blog post of mine.

The DC New 52 Review Part 3: Everything Else

The last two entries (here and here) took too long to write, and there’s a helluva lot of other titles to go through. And many of them don’t deserve much comments, so I’ll just go through the rest quickly or I might never finish.

Action Comics – the younger Superman stories are interesting, but occasionally Morrison goes off on one of his weird tangent stories. Superman’s early years are largely re-written, and that’s understandable, he’s never had particularly interesting events in his history anyway
Superman – meh, needs more spice
Superboy – interesting, but the character has yet to find a status quo
Supergirl – interesting, but the character has yet to find a status quo

Green Lantern – interesting, though it implies Hal is currently a GL in the league with a “fake” power ring. Most of the GL history seems to be intact, and the GL books are all leading towards some sort of “third army” event, I hope it happens soon.
Green Lantern Corps – interesting enough for me to want to read it before AvX #6 this week
Green Lantern: New Guardians – interesting, but I don’t see where this is going. Is it possible for Raynier’s “Rainbow Guardians” to become a real team?
Red Lanterns – mildly interesting, but I don’t see where this is going. I’m not convinced the Reds were the best corps to give their own series

Teen Titans – interesting for me, but only because Red Robin is here. The team’s “coming together adventure” has been going on for far too long and they need to reach some sort of status quo
Blue Beetle – interesting, but the character has yet to find a status quo
Legion of Super-Heroes – interesting storylines, but way too many characters, not very accessible
Legion Lost – interesting, but they can’t get back to their own time without changing the book title, so it kinda limits what’s going to happen and makes them always on the run

All-Star Western – interesting, but weird. Not really a superhero book, though it has ties to Gotham City. I’m not particularly interested in the backup stories though
Deathstroke – not interesting, seems to be mostly just Slade killing a bunch of guys for one reason or another. I’m not confident about it with Liefeld coming on, but I’ll probably still read it for a while since I can’t resist a  train wreck
Suicide Squad – meh, the squad composition at the moment isn’t very interesting, the only real personalities there are Deadshot and Harley (at least they’re giving her something to do aside from being a Joker fangirl)
Stormwatch – mildly interesting, if only because they’re going to need to be fighting the JL at some point. Some of their science-y explanations are ridiculous though
Grifter – meh, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere serious.
Voodoo – meh, not sure where it’s going. Also, with all this Daemonite activity going on, how is it Stormwatch isn’t seriously cracking down on them?
Resurrection Man – I like the concept, but the storyline seems to be going nowhere serious
Man O War – I tried to bear with this, but it just bored me. I only managed to read up to issue 7

Justice League Dark – interesting, though they’re not really a real “team” at the moment. But the team composition is solid, especially they dropped Shade who wasn’t really doing anything for the book. Andrew Bennet seems a better fit
Swamp Thing – interesting, but might be a bit too weird for some, since a lot of the book feels like Alec Holland being on an acid trip of some sort. Feels very Vertigo.
Animal Man – see Swamp Thing. Art is pretty good, but still weird.
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE – interesting enough. Art is… unique.
I, Vampire – surprisingly interesting, even if I’m already reading another Vampire series (American Vampire). Curious to see where it goes.
Demon Knights – surprisingly interesting, the team composition is nice and varied (Vandal Savage, wut) and the storylines are a fresh reprieve from superhero stuff

DC Comics Presents – Deadman was ok, Challengers less interesting for me. Good series for them to keep around and showcase lesser-known characters

And the second wave of the New 52, of which we are only one or two issues in:
Batman Incorporated – looking good, easily better than both Detective and Dark Knight
Earth 2 – the second issue was a bit slow, but it looks interesting enough
Worlds’ Finest – the first issue wasn’t the best, but I like the idea of this comic so I’ll keep reading it
Dial H – off to a good start, but I can’t help but wonder whether they’ll be running out of hero ideas at some point. Also, Pelican Army!
GI Combat – okay, I didn’t like the last war book, I’m not gonna bother with this one.
The Ravagers – giving this a shot, although at the moment it just seems like another “bunch of super teens on the run from evil forces” kinda deal, and that’s already what Teen Titans is doing at the moment.

I’m probably going to keep on reading a good 70-80% of the books going forward, I don’t feel compelled to read every single one of them any more. It’s still a good chunk of books to read, and makes me look forward to the new releases every week.

Grand Prix Manila 2012

Last weekend was Grand Prix Manila 2012, held at the SMX at Mall of Asia. I don’t really consider myself a “regular” Magic player anymore so I’m not going to give a full tournament report, though I will record some details for posterity.

Let’s start with the deck. I played some version of Naya Pod, limited by what cards were available as usual:

It’s a pretty straightforward deck, what with the turning guys sideways and all. And the round by round results:

1 BR Zombies WIN 2-1
2 UW Humans WIN 2-0
3 Gb Pod WIN 2-0
4 UW Delver LOSS 0-2
5 Frites WIN 2-1
6 RG Ramp LOSS 1-2
7 Wb Tokens WIN 2-0
8 UG Infect WIN 2-0
9 RG Ramp WIN 2-0
10 Pike Delver WIN 2-0
11 Delverless Delver LOSS 1-2
12 Sun Titan Delver LOSS 1-2
13 Some Delver WIN 2-0
14 Spectral Flight Delver WIN 2-1
15 Solar Flare WIN 2-1

As can be seen above, I made day 2 for the first time, and I believe this is already my sixth Grand Prix. I finished 11 and 4, which was good enough for 39th place despite my pretty bad tiebreaks. This means I finished in the money, hooray! Feels good to have a decent finish after playing this game for what, seventeen years now? Playing in Day 2 was great, the tables weren’t as crowded as Day One! Hah. I still made a lot of bad plays though, I mostly got lucky with a lot of my wins. With tighter play I might have gone as good as 13-2.

My finish
39th!

 

Aside from the main event, another thing I participated in during the second day was the Magic Rules Challenge! This was a fun thing they had where they set up a booth manned by a couple of judges. You could go up to them (no entrance fee) and answer up to three rules questions in a row. If you get questions right, you get foil cards! Well, the foil cards I won weren’t very useful or valuable, but I had a lot of fun with the rules questions themselves, I really enjoy that stuff. I’d hang out there between rounds not only to join but also to watch other people play. The questions ranged in difficulty from quite easy (“You play Grim Lavamancer’s activated ability and your opponent uses Tormod’s Crypt, how much damage is dealt?”) to an actual layers + [card]Humility[card] question! It was a nice relaxing change of pace to play between rounds to take some pressure off.

My crappy foil winnings from the Magic Rules Challenge

The weekend was exhausting, especially the nine rounds on the first day and the needing to travel back and forth to MOA, but it was a fun experience and definitely worth it (not sure if I’d say that if I didn’t place haha). Makes me excited about playing Magic again. Looking forward to the next GP Manila in a couple of years!

DC New 52 Review Part 2: Batman and Gotham

This is part 2 of my DC New 52 Review. Part is here. Hopefully I finish this series before the reviews become too out of date.

Batman

I decided to read every book of the New 52 to widen my horizons regarding my comic book reading, and one of the greatest advantages has been exposure to Scott Snyder’s work. I have a tendency not to remember writers and artists of comics I read, except for the very famous ones, so I wasn’t aware that I had read his work before during the Black Mirror arc in Detective Comics pre-New 52. But he’s quickly become one of my favorite writers to date, with his work on Batman quickly bringing me to appreciate his work on other books like Swamp Thing and the phenomenal American Vampire. His writing on Batman is up there with those other books. He’s introduced a whole new mythos and underbelly to Gotham, adding a new dimension to Batman’s fight to keep his city sane. And the artwork by Greg Capullo  is simply fantastic, an awesome backup to Snyder’s plots. Capullo is another creative whom I wouldn’t have encountered if not for the New 52, his work previously been mostly Image-related. The excellent creative team easily makes Batman my favorite of the DC New 52 so far (it helps that I’m quite the Batman fan.)

Detective Comics

Detective isn’t the best, but that’s okay. The art is above average, I kinda like it, though it smells a bit like the usual gritty comic-book art I’ve grown up with. The story lines so far have involved the Dollmaker and the Penguin, and they involve a lot of Batman knocking around thugs to get information. The stories are always narrated in Batman’s third person voice which gives it a weird edge. Not sure what’s the final fate of the Joker, based on what happened to him at the start of the book. The book is promising, but needs to show something excellent to gain attention. Still, it’s not like DC’s gonna cut the titular Detective Comics, so neither am I.

Batman: The Dark Knight

Batman seems to be the Wolverine of DC Comics: he has a lot of his own books, and he even makes appearances in other books to help shore up their popularity (see: Hawk and Dove, I Vampire) . As a Batman fan I’m glad to read more Bat-stories, but the character might just be stretched a little bit too thin. And if we had to cut one Batman book from the New 52, I’d choose this one (we certainly can’t cut any of the other three). Batman: The Dark Knight‘s storyline so far has involved a mysterious white rabbit and a hodgepodge of Batman’s enemies escaped from the asylum. Seriously, there’s a new one every issue: Two-Face in #2, Clayface as  Joker in #3, Deathstroke in #4, Scarecrow in #5, Venom in #6 and #7, Mad Hatter in #8. Then there’s the cameos by Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s like the writer finally got to his dream of drawing Batman and just wants to play with all the characters he can use. It’s not really a bad thing, but I’d appreciate more story arcs that didn’t just involve Batman punching a new supervillain every month. The art is so-so and reminds me of every guy who ever graduated from the Kubert school. The style is very much the same. The book is ok, I’d keep reading it if it were around, but probably wouldn’t miss it if they cut it.

Batman and Robin

What makes the current combination of Batman and Robin interesting is that unlike Bruce’s relationship with the previous Robins Dick and Tim (and even Jason) where having a partner was seen to improve Batman’s temperament and bring a lighter side to the superhero team, in Damian’s case he’s very much as grim as his father what with the whole being raised by assassins bit. And we get exactly what we can expect – Bruce trying to teach Damian how to become a better person despite his upbringing and despite forces around them trying to bring Damian down into the dark side. The art is a bit uneven but it works, and the book is well worth the read.

Batgirl

It was a bit controversial when they revealed Barbara Gordon would be getting her legs back with the reboot. Oracle had been a staple of the Batman family for so long that fans would surely miss her, not to mention the fans of previous Batgirls Cass Cain and Stephanie Brown (neither of which have been seen in action in the New 52). While the events of The Killing Joke haven’t been retconned away (Barbara explicitly recalls the shooting incident in several flashbacks), they haven’t explained yet as of this writing the “miracle” that gave Barbara back the use of her legs. The current storylines haven’t been particularly exciting; I think I enjoyed Stephanie’s schoolgirl problems more, but they’re entertaining enough I suppose. The art is okay, if not a bit too shiny. Will continue reading.

Batwing

I like Batwing if only for the fact that a superhero from Africa has his own titular book. Most of the first story arc (which spans the first eight books) takes place in Africa and delves into the history of superheroes on that continent. It also shows a bit of what life is like under the grip of African warlords. The exposure to something non-American is nice, although the story arc manages to drag itself over to Gotham for the finale (and it looks like Batwing is going to become part of Justice League International‘s roster). The art style is crisp, unique and refreshing, I approve of this book.

Batwoman

I really like the artwork here and the panel layouts. They all feel so crisp and I love paging through them. The stories are okay, except that they don’t put enough effort towards the accessibility of the character. I’ve read some of Batwoman’s history before so I know a bit what she’s about, but this book mostly just dives straight in and expects the reader to “get it”. It’s nice that Batwoman doesn’t end up as one of Batman’s “formal” allies. Instead she ends up working with a certain government agency. (This book is also not part of the Night of Owls crossover I think). However, I find some story details a bit tough to follow, not sure if it’s because of the unusual layouts or the lack of introductory detail – I find myself having to read each issue one more time to get most of the details. They’re usually worth it though, and this is a book I’m going to keep following.

Nightwing

The story arcs so far dig into Dick’s background with the Haly Circus, something I haven’t been too familiar with before. Near the end of the first eight books it ties in to the Batman Court of Owls storyline, adding a deeper back story to Haly’s Circus than previous story lines had shown. The book is interesting and the art is okay, though it’s not one of the titles I feel like I have to read immediately.

Catwoman

This book has trouble keeping my interest. It’s mostly Catwoman getting into thieving hijinks (and occasionally having sex with the Batman). Well, at least the story gives us a different perspective of life on Gotham’s streets. The art isn’t spectacular, but it’s not bad. I’ll probably keep reading it, at lower priority.

Birds of Prey

I’ve never read the previous Birds of Prey series, so I’m not sure how this compares, but the book is interesting enough. I like the team’s variety – there’s one of Batman’s archvillains here, Black Canary is always cool, I’m not entirely sure Katana is sane, and I like the way Starling handles things. The art is passable, though not really standing out for me. No reason to drop this title.

Red Hood and the Outlaws

This series kicked off with a bit of controversy regarding the mangling of Starfire’s character. In fact it confused me a bit with Starfire’s vague recollections of being with Dick Grayson; I’m not sure whether the New Teen Titans era exists in the New 52 (the Teen Titans book seems to imply that the New 52 incarnation is the first one). Despite the problems with Starfire’s characterizations, I’ve found the stories so far pretty interesting. The plots mostly delves into Jason Todd’s background and what happened to him between the time he was brought back by the League of Assassins and when he resurfaced as the Red Hood. The art is pretty good, it’s probably one of my favorite in the entire New 52. It’s nice and shiny and not too conventional. This is one of the books I read immediately when it comes out.

Ugh, these reviews are taking longer to write than I thought. Next up: Superman and Green Lantern.

CJ Corona Impeached

Time for some Monday morning quarterbacking!

Disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer. I’m just a guy with opinions. And you know what they say about opinions…

Today, the Philippine Senate has impeached the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by a vote of 20 to 3.

I’ve generally kept silent about the CJ trial, mainly because I know people who are rabidly pro-Corona and I don’t feel like getting into an argument with someone who’s obviously biased (I’m sorry my friends, we are going to have to agree to disagree now). Not to say I dislike him either. I’ve never met the man, I don’t personally know anything about his family. All I know is what I’ve heard reported in the news, media, etc. I’ve tried to hold my judgment until the end of the trial.

First: yes, the prosecution was terrible. Rushed impeachment complaint, bringing charges that are near-impossible to prove (“bias”? =/) fishing expeditions, “evidence” mysteriously appearing given by “unknown sources”. It’s all kinds of shady. To be honest, if the defense had rested their case right after the prosecution finished, they might have gotten a better outcome than this, maybe even won, who knows. The prosecution had next to nothing before the defense made their presentation. All they had were dollar accounts inaccessible to them, and the properties being declared with market value rather than acquisition cost. The defense made so many mistakes, it’s facepalm-worthy. Calling a hostile witness to the stand without knowing what she would bring, calling irrelevant witnesses, arguing that the foreign currency act restricted Corona himself from disclosing the dollar accounts; Cuevas (or whoever pushed for it) should be disbarred for even arguing that last one. They really had only one thing they had to explain, the co-mingled funds in the peso account issue. And even that they weren’t able to explain, with nothing to back up Corona’s explanation: no bank documents, no paper trail, none of the family members testifying that some of the funds were there, nothing!

The only things Corona brought with his testimony were ad hominem attacks, appeals to sympathy, appeals to authority and drama. While I don’t care if those arguments are presented to the media or via press conferences I couldn’t care less, but for the chief justice himself, the head of the judiciary, to be making such arguments in a quasi-legal proceeding? It boggles the mind, to be claiming that the prosecution is bringing forth charges without evidence, when your arguments consist of a conspiracy theory involving an unrelated agrarian reform case and the state of mind of your grandchild. Ugh.

To be honest, I was already leaning against the CJ the moment he accepted the midnight appointment from Gloria Arroyo. That was a terrible, terrible thing to do. You can say that technically it was legal and the Supreme Court upheld it but whatever. I don’t believe that we should be supportive of public servants just because they adhere to the minimum standards set by the law. I believe that with public office being a public trust, public servants should be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens, even more so those who hold the highest positions in our land. Higher standards of integrity and delicadeza. Public servants should be like caesar’s wife: beyond any suspicion.  To accept that midnight appointment, while ruled to be technically legal, while it could not be proven to be for the benefit of GMA, was a terribly unethical decision for someone who should be the epitome of legal ethics. It would have been so easy to say “No, this is not right, I will not accept this nomination, I will not degrade the position of Chief Justice” and thus to end his career honorably (possibly even be chosen as the CJ at a later date). But pride, ambition, loyalty, whatever, he still chose to accept it, and it led to his downfall.

The interpretation of the FCBD act and the SALN law to his benefit is another example, an indicator of a preference of adhering to the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law; of placing more importance to a law whose purpose was to encourage dollar savings than to a law that promotes transparency and good government. Is that the sort of shining example we want to give to the judiciary, that they should be placing their personal interests above those of the country?

And rushing out of the trial, claiming a low blood sugar attack, conveniently right after he dramatically calls for waivers from his “political opponents”, then coming back in a wheelchair looking dazed to try to get sympathy (what, there were no sugar sources anywhere in the senate building?). There’s no way to disprove the claim or to show it was staged (even though he had time to shake hands with some people on his way out of the courtroom), but you have to wonder if the CJ himself would allow that sort of shenanigans if he was presiding over the court. Not a very good example either.

There were very few real winners in this trial, but a clear one has to be the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Despite all the incompetence of the related parties, he did the best job he could, presiding over a very fair trial, calling it straight down the middle down to the very end. Respect.

Also, time for a lesson in bad arguments (mostly for internet commenters): “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – this is a logical fallacy called “Tu quoque”, a form of ad hominem. While this is great for bibilical parables, probably not the best argument to cite for legal proceedings. Sure, a whole lot of the accusers themselves are probably corrupt or misdeclaring their SALNs or whatever. Impeach them too. Impeach them all if we have to. (Fortunately for the president, incompetence is not an impeachable offense…yet.)

That’s my 2 cents. Now can we move on? We still have to prepare for the next circus, it’s coming in May 2013.

 

The DC New 52 Review (Part 1)

If you’re reading this, that means I’ve done it: I’ve read the first eight issues of every DC New 52 book. I’ve always been a Marvel fan more than DC, my previous DC reading having been restricted to JLA and the Batman books, so I figured exposure to the New 52 would widen my appreciation of the DC stable of heroes. Here are my reviews:

Justice League

While the art is Jim Lee-fantastic, the first story arc left much to be desired. It was basically a meet-and-greet where we’re introduced to the team members and after a while they knock Darkseid back down a boom tube. Nothing overly complicated, and it would be okay for an introductory arc if it didn’t take six issues to get to that point. (By comparison, Morrison’s far more interesting White Martian arc that launched the JLA book in 1997 finished in four issues). The characters aren’t particularly fleshed out, which is fine. Justice League books have always been more about the powers and big epic battles than serious characterization, though hopefully Geoff Johns can sneak in something more than a “Hal Jordan is shallow” joke every once in a while. They’re starting a new story arc with issue #9, and based on the FCBD DC New 52 book, they have a Trinity War story arc coming up next year, so hopefully the book picks up the pace.

Justice League International

Reading this book feels like watching the animated Justice League Unlimited series. That’s where I was first introduced to some of the characters like Fire, Ice, Vixen and Booster Gold. Booster is a great character, and while he doesn’t have his own New 52 book, it’s nice seeing him take the helm in this one. The art here isn’t exceptional and like Justice League the story is more about the powers than the characters but at least the pacing is better than the Justice League book. Guy Gardner’s problems with Booster are a nice touch, but it’s kind of overkill to have started this book with Batman as part of the team in the main story arc; I’m not sure if Batwing will be taking his place in the team after issue 8.

Aquaman

It’s nice that the book is really meta about Aquaman’s status as a Justice League member, implying he’s the butt of jokes even in the actual DC universe. The stories so far have been entertaining, and the characterization of Arthur and Mera have been okay; Johns’ writing is better here than in Justice League so far. The art looks nice, though not spectacular. The ongoing “The Others” storyline seems to have promise, hopefully we’ll see some epic Aquaman arcs. Not sure if I miss the hook from Peter David’s days.

Wonder Woman

The art style here is weird and unusual, but I kinda like it. The storyline so far has dealt mainly with Greek myth stuff and has made significant changes to Diana’s origins linking her more to the Olympus pantheon. It’s a good read especially if you’re into all the mythological references.

The Flash

Barry Allen is back as the only Flash in the DCnU, though we’ll see how long that lasts. The first story arc was ok, showing us some details of how Barry interacts with Iris West and the police, while the second story arc brings us some new details on how The Flash interacts with The Speed Force in the DCnU. The art is okay, I like it a bit better than Aquaman. The only obvious question at the moment is: where is Wally West?

Captain Atom

So far the art on this book hasn’t been very appealing to me. The story line is a lot of “oh no, I’m having trouble controlling my powers and the norms don’t trust me”. I’m not sure what his range of powers were pre-New 52, but the way it’s described here he’s basically able to do anything, including time travel, matter transformation, etc. Anything except FIND LOVE. The book is meh, I wouldn’t mind losing it.

The Fury of Firestorm

I seem to remember that there was a previous Firestorm incarnation where it was two people trapped in the same body. It’s different this time around, they have two teenagers who are both Firestorms, each with a different power set. (Only one of them can do transmutation, et cetera). Additionally, they can combine into a bigger, badder Firestorm! Also, other countries have Firestorms too, albeit most are flawed versions. Firestorms seem to be kinda like nukes here. The art is nothing to write home about. The book is ok I guess.

Green Arrow

Ugh, the art is mediocre and the storylines are uninteresting and feel unnecessarily convoluted, especially the latest one. Oliver Queen here is shallow and uninteresting, playing out the lazy heir to a fortune while secretly fighting crime in a costume. I think we already have one of those (Batman, and he’s already pretty overexposed), so Green Arrow needs some way to differentiate himself. So far he hasn’t shown any of the grit or social consciousness that was characteristic of the previous incarnation.

The Savage Hawkman

The art here is a bit unusual, but I kind of like it. The storyline revolves around Carter Hall and his archaeological pals accidentally unleashing some sort of evil alien that had previously been trapped on Earth. There’s some changes to his powers as well, as the Nth metal which enables him being Hawkman is now ‘bonded’ to his body such that he can transform into Hawkman at will (sort of like how Iron Man’s current armor is just nanomachines in his body). Well okay, I’m not exactly sure how the previous incarnations worked, but my impression was that the Nth metal was just a harness he put on. It’s still unknown how Carter Hall in this universe is related to Katar Hol, the Thanagarian who was previously Hawkman, or whether we’re going to see Hawkgirl/Shayera anytime soon, but this series has potential.

Ok, I can’t do everything all in one post, so let’s save some for later. For the curious, I’m doing these in Wikipedia order, which means the Batman family will be in part 2.