There's A Darkness

30 March 2015

Wrestlemania 31 Thoughts

Wrestlemania XXXI was the least anticipated supercard wrestling event in recent memory. People paid to report on professional wrestling sounded nearly defeated talking about the show. Fans were lackadaisical at best. After the go home show on last week's Raw, I told myself it was time to take a hiatus from something I've followed along with for 16 years... after watching the Grand Daddy of 'Em All of course. But over the week, my excitement started to build. 

Brock Lesnar, the reigning WWE world heavyweight champion, former UFC fighter and all around freak athlete, announced he re-signed with WWE after rumored intense contract negotions. Saturday night's Hall of Fame saw a share of laughs and tears between the inductions of the surprisingly entertaining Bushwackers,  Macho Man Randy Savage and Connor "The Crusher" Michalek, an eight year old fan who passed away after fighting pediatric brain cancer. That Hall of Fame show reminded me that wrestling is important, damn it, and even though it's not good a lot of the time, even flat out bad on occasion, when it is good it is great. So I went into Sunday's show excited.

And they didn't disappoint.

An Intercontinental Championship ladder match ended with its best participant Daniel Bryan winning the championship and, with luck, beginning a march to restore prestige to one of the best belts in professional wrestling.

A clash between two athletes, Seth Rollins, WWE's go-to bad guy for the last year, the other now nearly beloved by most and known as Da Gawd ended with a move that made my jaw drop.

A match that seemed bizarre in its build as a "dream match" between Triple H and 56 year old Sting proved that Sting could still go when it mattered. WWE pulled out everything possible from its bag of tricks with interference from HHH's D-Generation X cohorts and Hall of Famers Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to help the match. The one head scratcher was the big bad Triple H taking the win in Sting's first WWE match in his 30 year career. Sting had been the lone hold out of heroes from one of professional wrestling's boom eras. It only proved that when you make a deal with a devil, no matter how good, the devil still wins.

The women's tag match which showcased a division that has suffered greatly on the main WWE shows while consistently being a highlight in the developmental program showed promise for the year to come.

The US Championship match between WWE institution John Cena and Rusev, the Russian Federation's hero, won me over as soon as Rusev entered on a tank while a Russian army marched and the Russian national anthem blared throughout Levi Stadium. Cena winning only builds hope that WWE will work to build the reputation of a championship that's been little more than a joke for years.

Stephanie McMahon proved that she's one of the best performers in today's sideshow by talking shit to The Rock and UFC champion Ronda Rousey only to flee. If this isn't followed up on, WWE is losing guaranteed money.
The showdown between the WWE's "faces of fear" in Max Cady - stumbles through Carcosa cult leader Bray Wyatt and universally known dead man The Undertaker may have been the low point of the show. But considering how the previous Wrestlemania saw the Undertaker both defeated in ring and seemingly knocked out of the game, the 50 year old showed there was still a bit of life in him.

But all of the defeated outlook on the event rested on the seemingly inevitable coronation of Roman Reigns in the main event. Reigns had been rejected during the three month build. While some felt he didn't deserve it, I was more angry with those behind the curtain who seemed bullheaded enough to shove a hero down the crowd's throat that they had vocally and repeatedly let known they didn't want. Would a show that had been thus far enjoyable turn sour with the expected groan of the night? 

The moment he started his entrance through the crowd, Reigns was rejected. The champion Brock Lesnar entered to cheers which seemed nearly impossible the year before after defeating the previously mentioned Undertaker. He was a monster and a bully who was in the game for the money. Yet here he was making a hero's entrance. He quickly went to work destroying the challenger with the crowd calling out the number of suplexes he threw. Here was a legitimate athlete in a fictional world; an asskicker who wasn't above taking a lick while dishing them out. Once Reigns made a couple desperate maneuvers and busted open the beast, my stomach started to sink. Hitting his trademark moves only made the feeling worse. But Lesnar took the beating and kicked out.

Then arguably the best possible outcome was set in motion. WWE's go-to heel Seth Rollins came out with his guaranteed championship match contract and cashed it in. He pinned Reigns in the middle of the ring. The man who had suffered loss earlier in the night stood  tall and laughed as the event went off the air. 

WWE laid open the next year with Lesnar looking to gain back the championship he never lost, Reigns hunting his former friend for robbing him of the title, Randy Orton looking to continue his feud with Rollins and Daniel Bryan and John Cena rebuilding the prestige of championships that had seemed lost. 

Just when I think I'm out...they pull me back in.

25 March 2015

2014 in Books


Books 2014
Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.
Angela's Ashes
Born Standing Up
‘Salem’s Lot
Fight Club
The Death of Santini
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling
Dark Places


Comics
A Contract With God
Gotham Central: Soft Targets
The Fifth Beatle
Fracture
Captain America: Winter Soldier
S.H.I.E.L.D.
Secret Warriors
Noah
The Strange Deaths of Batman
Andre The Giant
Collected Legends of the Dark Knight
Gonzo
The Immortal Iron Fist
Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography
Black Science Volume One
Batman: Year 100
Thor/Loki: Blood Brothers
Sex Criminals Volume One
Sexcastle
Down Set Fight
Nixon’s Pals
Graphic Ink: The DC Art of Frank Quitely
OMAC
Fraction’s The Defenders
The Score
Captain America: Man Out of Time
Fury MAX: My War Gone By
Green Arrow: Year One
New X-Men: Riot at Xavier’s
Dr. Strange & Dr. Doom: Triumph and Torment
Moon Knight: From The Dead
Superior Foes of Spider-Man: Getting The Band Back Together

“I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I’ve already been.”

Shut the door. Have a seat.


31 December 2013

The 2013 Book List

Books
God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
Batman: Knightfall
Fortunately, The Milk
Pet Sematary
Superman: Miracle Monday

Comics
Young Avengers: Sidekicks
Batman: Year Two
Fun House
Crossover Classics: The Marvel/DC Collection
Fury: My War Gone By
The Books of Magic
Batman Incorporated
Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon
Batman: The Alan Davis Collection
Superman: Birthright
Superman: Secret Identity
Seven Soldiers
The Immortal Iron Fist: The Last Iron Fist Story
Wolverine
Capote in Kansas
Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City
Batman: Jekyll and Hyde
Officer Downe
Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories
Fury: My War Gone By Volume Two
The Five Fists of Science
Punisher: Army of One
Punisher: Confederacy of Dunces
Something Terrible
Punisher Max: Frank
Punisher Max: Homeless
Sin Titulo
Thor, The Mighty Avenger
Black Beetle: No Way Out
Batman: Death of the Family
Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray
Batman: Arkham Reborn
Whiteout
The Red Wing

01 August 2013

Mark Waid in 2006

"The good news is, and I guarantee you this, when we’re on the other side of [Infinite Crisis], those days are GONE. Just gone. We’re sick to death of heroes who are not heroes, we’re sick to death of darkness. Not that there’s no room, not that Batman should act like Adam West, but that won’t be the overall feeling. After all this stuff, after everything shakes down, we’re done with heroes being dicks. No more “we screwed each other and now we must pay the consequences.” No, we’re super-heroes and that’s what we do. Batman’s broken. Through no ONE person’s fault, but he’s a dick now. And we’ve been told we can fix that."

Batman Incorporated #13 Thoughts

Written by Grant Morrison
Pencilled and Inked by Chris Burnham
Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
Lettered by Steve Wands and Travis Lanham

It's over. Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham deliver a beautiful postmortem of Morrison's nearly seven year run on the Bat books which ends where it started: Commissioner Gordon looking through his lenses and the introduction of those claiming to be the son of Batman. 

The story of a man and woman who simultaneously love and hate each other so much that the world around them will suffer for the relationship is a grand one. The woman who criticizes a man for becoming something ridiculous to combat his own demons builds a ridiculous army to destroy his world. The man who sees the ridiculousness around him yet soldiers on because that's what he has to do no matter what... Man that strikes a cord. But by the time this high stakes lovers' quarrel is over, Batman remains.

Chris Burnham has been Morrison's strongest and longest collaborator on a run filled with great artists like Frank Quitely, J.H. Williams III and Cameron Stewart. One of the true treats of Batman Inc. has been watching his work evolve from a handful of pages in the last Morrison scribed Batman and Robin to this beautiful issue. Action shots of masses fighting, a deadly kiss, a recreation of classic canon and two men talking over a cup of coffee. Beautiful. While I'm sad Batman Inc has come to an end, I look forward to seeing what he has lined up in the future.

As for the writing end, the ouroboros is a fitting end for continually published character that's been around for nearly 75 years. Everything that's old is new again. Morrison has already been moved around a bit as Scott Snyder drives the character's blockbuster book. Morrison's idea of Batman living all these years as a super adaptable man has now become a Batman around for only six years in this New 52. But everything that dies someday'll come back.  Great last issue.

Quick Thoughts:
  • The good cop brings coffee.
  • Burnham's panel of Gordon and a young Bruce Wayne at the scene of Crime Alley...Man.
  • My favorite members of Inc. Man of Bats and Raven Red punching out a masked soldier of Custer's army. Fan-fucking-tastic.
  • That title page (see above) should put Burnham's kid through a semester of college.
  • Talia's trigger doesn't work....see last July.
  • "YOU MIGHT THINK YOU OWN THE WORLD, BUT YOU'LL NEVER HAVE GOTHAM CITY!"
  • "I don't exist." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  • "Batman never dies. It never ends. It probably never will."
  • Dead is better.

16 June 2013

Bob As Lex On Man Of Steel


The Northampton Wizard/Scottish Sorcerer Feud Continues

"...More lately there have been attempts to mitigate the industry’s offence with an appeal to half-baked mysticism and postmodernism, maintaining that Superman and the commercial children’s comic characters which followed him are all in some sense archetypes that hover in the ether, waiting to be plucked by any lucky idiot who passes by. Ingeniously, this sidesteps the whole Siegel and Shuster problem by insisting that creators in the superhero field aren’t actually creators after all, but merely the recipients of some kind of transcendent windfall fruit that should be freely shared around. Even if this were true, it’s difficult to see exactly how it justifies a perhaps gangster-founded company of fruiterers (just to continue the analogy) declaring that these profitable magic apples all belong to them in perpetuity...." - Alan Moore, discussing Superman while really discussing someone else. More can be found here.

13 June 2013

Superman Unchained #1 Thoughts

Superman Unchained #1
Written by Scott Snyder
Pencilled by Jim Lee
Backup Pencils by Dustin Nguyen

With Man of Steel looking to make some serious cash this weekend, DC looks to capitalize on the attention with a new Superman #1 written by their best selling writer Scott Snyder and drawn by superstar artist and co-publisher Jim Lee. And, all in all, it's a solid start.

With Jim Lee having over 20 years in the industry, you've got a decent idea of what he's going to bring to the table. And over the last three years or so, Scott Snyder has built a brand of blockbuster stories with carefully composed inner monologues which I've found appealing. Between Snyder's use of history and prose like monologues and a giant 8 page foldout showcasing Lee's pencils, the team clearly puts their brand on the book.

The story itself is a strong prologue to the run setting up a handful of mysteries and also serves as a quick introduction for whomever comes to this fresh to the central characters of Metropolis in Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White and Lex Luthor. The opening set in 1945 Nagasaki and then the proper intro to Superman in action stand out as my favorite moments and the interaction between Jimmy and Clark is the best handling of the characters since All-Star Superman. By the time you reach the conclusion, there's clearly something this story is about rather than a mere cash grab. Between the use of drones in the War on Terror and ongoing NSA saga, Superman vs the Military-Industrial Complex is a story for these times and this reader.

The one downfall of the book is the five dollar price point for a book that's 22 pages and a pullout poster of new content. The poster itself is a part of the story and is somewhat sloppily glued with the book but hey, it's a Jim Lee comic. I've reached the point of realizing and occasionally accepting a very Jim Lee gimmick. But it factors into knocking the grade down slightly. If you walk out of the theater and feel like reading a Superman book, grab All-Star. And if you've got an extra five bucks, give this a shot.

B+

15 April 2013

Boston


Patton Oswalt says it better than I ever could.

29 March 2013

Wednesday On Friday (Repost)

The ravens arrived and proceeded to feast on the unbeliever's eyes. Then one turned and cocked its head to the dying man hanging in the middle. "We bring a message. 'Three hours? Try nine days, boy.'" The clouds rumbled in response and the ravens fled.

Then the great silence set in.

27 February 2013

Batman Incorporated #8 Thoughts


Batman Incorporated #8
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Chris Burnham with Jason Masters

Even the press releases to newspapers earlier this week didn't spoil it for you, there was most likely a feeling in your gut that this was coming. First there was the great character moments in last month's issue of Damian taming his new kitten and teaming up with Alfred to go out and save his father from his mother and her army. Then there's this month's cover paying homage to Batman RIP and the meta commentary that Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne made a great Batman and Robin. It was too good. It was too perfect. You knew this wouldn't end well.

Last month, the Batman Incorporated/Leviathan war continued to rage. The agents of the Bat had been divided and Talia had launched her army of children and citizens against Gotham and ensnared her beloved in a death trap. Damian was left with no choice but to violate his father's orders and don the costume and enter the fray once again. Now Damian zips through the city in a robotic flight suit, rescuing Jim Gordon and Nightwing from mind controlled children and moving towards Wayne Tower to face his mother and her brute henchman in order to rescue his father. Along the way he rescues a Morrison regular and Wayne Enterprise employee Ellie and then teams up with Nightwing once again in a moment that reminded me of both the epic Batman and Robin run and a bit of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Then it all goes to hell.

The Heretic, a Damian clone turned into a brutish henchman for Talia, arrives with the trigger to the Ouroboros bomb that served as the MacGuffin for the first volume of the series in his hands. As Damian distracts him, Ellie steals the trigger. The two brothers fight in a gruesome parody of the Batman/Bane beatdown. Meanwhile, Batman escapes the death trap and makes his way to the ground floor only to find his bloodied and broken son and clutch his body against him. The fight between father and mother has claimed a son.

There have been plenty of write ups on Morrison and his take on Batman. And before he wraps it up, there will be a lot more. So I'll be brief this once: He's hit way more than he's missed. And this final season of his run is bittersweet. But with this issue, Chris Burnham has drawn more Morrison Batman pages than anyone else. And he tears it up from the cartoonish monsters of the Children's Army to the panel work of the Damian/Heretic fight. It's been refreshing to see a consistent artist who feels like a true collaborator and an unfortunate rarity in the big moments of this run.

Damian Wayne is dead. Talia al Ghul is responsible. And now what is Bruce Wayne to do?

Quick Notes:

  • Opening line: "What would you do without me, Grayson?" So cruel.
  • "My dear sweet, doomed detective...Playing dress up and fight...No ambition...A man who might have ruled the world." Talia can talk shit with the best of Bond villains.
  • Damian busting through the window in his flight suit recalls Batman Inc. #5's Future Damian story and, of course, the bat.
  • That Damian/Dick dialogue is obviously a shoutout to the the most vocal of fans who can be found on Tumblr as well as possibly a commentary on DC's rejection of seemingly everything pre-New 52. 
    • And it was awesome.
  • The sound effects return ala Quitely in Batman and Robin as well as Adam West. Great job, Burnham.
  • The trademark double punch has taken down Professor Pyg, Jason Todd, Dr. Hurt but fails against the Heretic.
  • Hey, it's Frank Quitely's Scottish armor!
  • "My brother. My twin. My rival. Now you will know me."
  • "Stop! Fighting! Father!"
  • "BREAK!" "No."
  • "Our son was a flawed creation. Born from a bottle. A failed experiment. You lost the world that might have been yours. You lost me. You're losing everything. You're losing the game. Your move, my detective."