The Pull List – January 26th

Man, it was pretty much a snow week here in Northern Virginia, but that didn’t stop me from getting my comics!

Wonder Woman #606: This feels like a completely different book than the one JMS was writing by himself. I dunno how much of that is Phil Hester’s doing, or how much of it was planned by JMS himself (I’m guessing more the former than the latter), but it’s turning into something I actually want to read. Diana actually seems like a character with some personality now rather than a cipher for whatever boring-ass story JMS was wanting to tell. Sure, we’re still dealing with the “someone messed up Wonder Woman’s timeline and now she’s in this alternate timeline where everything is different but not really all that different look Wonder Woman’s wearing pants isn’t that new,” but at least it’s interesting now.

Justice League: Generation Lost #18: We get a battle between a confused Power Girl and the JLI, Blue Beetle gets tortured a bit more by Maxwell Lord (who also spends some time rambling about “what is good and evil, anyway?”), and things are being moved into place for a final confrontation (there’s only six issues left now, y’know). I’m really, really hoping they do not kill of Jamie Reyes; he’s easily one of the most interesting characters introduced into the DCU in the past ten years (alongside Ryan Choi, but we all know how that went). This book is keeping my interest and making me look forward to the next issue, which is never a bad thing.

Deadpool #32: Deadpool versus the galaxy’s most unstoppable bounty hunter! No, not that intergalactic bounty hunter – he’s part of the Distinguished Competition – but the inspiration is pretty clear. And inspired is a pretty good word for this issue: it’s fun, gives us some great gags and visuals, and it doesn’t get too bogged down in trying to be funny (which is a problem I’ve noticed with this character and title before: when it doesn’t work, it’s because it’s trying too hard to be funny rather than letting the humor flow naturally out of the situation or characters). It’s a solid, done-in-one story that’s a light, fun read. What more could you want?

Detective Comics #873: A quick complaint/question: the cover to my copy of this issue has all sorts of streaks and smudges on it. Was it supposed to look like that? Or was it just a byproduct of printing dark colors on a white background? Regardless of this quibble, the issue inside is fantastic. Jock’s art has a sketchy, angular look to it that suits the comic well, containing just enough detail, and Scott Snyder’s script makes excellent use of the fact that Dick Grayson as Batman is not the same as Bruce Wayne as Batman. Had it been Bruce Wayne in this situation, it would’ve played out much differently (especially because, given the current tendency to show Bruce Wayne as the guy who plans for every single possible situation, he wouldn’t have ended up in the same predicament that Dick did), but Dick learns a few things about being Gotham’s protector and saves the day at the end. I am sad to see they didn’t finish up the Commissioner Gordon backups in this book so they cold “hold the line at $2.99,” but I guess we’ll get the resolution to that in a one-shot down the road (kinda like they’re doing with the Jimmy Olsen backups from Action Comics).

Action Comics #897: Speaking of Action Comics, this issue felt like a bit of a letdown, honestly. Lex Luthor’s confrontation with the Joker could’ve been much zanier than it ended up being; I mean, haven’t these two interacted before? Doesn’t Lex know enough to keep his cool when the Joker is razzin’ him? And beyond that, how is the Joker in Arkham? I seem to recall he was still on the loose after his appearance in Batman and Robin. Ah well. All that aside, we do get a couple steps closer to the resolution of Lex’s search for the Black Lantern energy, we find out his Loisbot might have some sinister ulterior motives, and there is a magic pony who sings.

Chaos War #5: This event ends in probably the only way it really could. Of course we know the Chaos King will be defeated; otherwise, this would’ve seeped over into the rest of the Marvel Universe line a whole hell of a lot more than it did. We get some folks resurrected permanently, while others don’t (which was kinda weird, but probably handed down from editorial), and the solution to the problem is deus ex machina in a very literal way. At the end, we do get the promise that this isn’t really the end of Hercules’s adventures, but rather the beginning of a new era of adventures.

I also grabbed the Batman International trade, which features a couple of stories written by Alan Grant (one of which was illustrated by Frank Quitely, which might be why I bought it) and another written by Mark Waid. They’re good stories, and it’s fun to see more Batman kickin’ but in places like Spain and Scotland, but it’s ultimately not an essential read by any means.

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Oh, Denim

A month or so back, I went to a concert with my friend/songwriting partner, Emily. We were very excited to see the main act, Jesse Malin. The opening act, though? Not so much.

See, apparently he was some guy who’d used to play in a band with Jesse, but hadn’t really moved on to bigger and better things afterward. No, he was still pretty convinced it was 1991, that trying to cram as many curse words into your opening song was “cool” and, possibly, “edgy,” and that wearing a denim jacket with jeans was a fashion statement (which, in his defense, it was. Just not the statement he thought it was).

Regardless, our opinion of this guy and his music was rather low. Terribly low. We had to invent new language to describe how much we disliked this sub-Bon Jovi, sensitive-guy whiner belting out his acoustic power ballads set to G, C, and D. It was painful.

But it was also, in a way, inspirational: Emily and I both walked away after hearing Double-Denim Poser Boy (as we’d dubbed the man in his late 40s who was still trying desperately to pretend he was 25) with a mission: to write a song about the guy. And we each did. Quite fun songs, I should say.

Anyway, long story short (or not so short), here’s my version. Enjoy.
Double Denim Poser Boy (Version 1)

The Pull List – January 19th

Pretty good week this week, even if it was light on single issues.

Thor #619: Odin is mad as Hell, and he lets everyone know it. Balder and Tyr gird their loins for a brave battle against the oncoming forces of darkness, and Thor mostly stands around doing a whole lot of nothing. Fraction’s got this story on a bit of a slow burn, introducing small elements in each issue that will (I hope) all add up to something awesome, but it’s a bit of a slog waiting for the action to start.

Deadpool MAX #4: Cable! In a monocle! There’s something sinister brewing in this book, some deeper story that’s simmering just below the surface. Bob gets lucky, Deadpool goes temporarily hippy, and Cable is actually interesting (and wears a tux and the aforementioned monocle!). I was originally skeptical about this book, but I find myself enjoying it more and more with each issue.

Invincible Iron Man #500: Iron Man returns to its “original” number this issue with a cross-generational tale of Starks trying to save the world from their own inventions. It’s a solid story, though the guest art on the book didn’t really gel with the usual glossy, heavily-rendered style we normally get on the book.

I also grabbed three trades this week: Thor: Siege, volume 10 of X-Factor, and the latest collection of Secret Six. Good, good stuff all around.

The Pull List – January 12th

New comics are go! Let’s take a look.

Batman and Robin #19: This wraps up Paul Cornell’s three-issue run on the title, and it’s a decent finale. Cornell introduced a new villain, The Absence, that I’m sure someone somewhere down the line will probably bring up again. There were some flaws with this issue (the villain’s motives are still just weird and feel off, some of the dialogue felt a bit off), but it’s nice to see Dick Grayson as Batman loosening up and enjoying his job again.

Birds of Prey #8: When a story references that abomination Identity Crisis, I always get a bit concerned. But I trust Gail Simone, and I know she’ll come up with something interesting here. The premise of the story arc – that Oracle needs to clean the slate and start fresh to protect those she loves – makes sense, I guess. And getting Bruce Wayne (as Batman) involved in it is interesting (and also has me wishing she was writing an actual Batman book now).

Booster Gold #40: The past…er, future…comes back to haunt Booster this issue. It’s an interesting direction to take the book and the character in. Booster has grown considerably as a character in the past few years, and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles someone digging up his bad deeds.

Casanova: Gula #1: Where is Casanova Quinn? He’s disappeared in time and/or space, and it’s up to his allies in E.M.P.I.R.E to find him. It’s a strong start to the second miniseries from Fraction, this time with art by the fantastic Fabio Moon. It’s awesome and over the top, but I shouldn’t have to tell you that.

Chaos War: Dead Avengers #3: Here, we get to see what heroes are really made of, and a few of ’em aren’t gonna survive the experience. A couple do, however, and while this particular mini doesn’t feel vital to the greater arc of the Chaos War event, it’s still a nice tie-in and uses the Chaos War backdrop to great effect.

Deadpool #31: This issue wraps up Deadpool’s involvement with the “Draculas,” and it’s a damn fine comic. Deadpool’s quips are funny, his solution to the vampire problem is clever, and it’s easy to forget that this book is tying in to an event over in X-Men.
Let’s see where it goes from here.

Justice League: Generation Lost #17: We’re finally starting to see Maxwell Lord’s plans here, and they aren’t pretty. Checkmate is abolished, only not really, Blue Beetle’s captured, and the rest of the JLI has a new foe to face that’s…well, let’s just say it ain’t gonna be so easy to walk away from this one.

Knight and Squire #4: Beryl has a boy come to visit, and the Knight finds himself fighting his own armor. It’s a fun issue (as all the issues of this book have been), with the highlight being the Knight’s American butler, Hank (who is from Texas, I’m thinking).

Secret Six #29: This issue picks up where the last issue of Action Comics left off: with the Six caught up in a power struggle between Lex Luthor and Vandal Savage. All the Six can really do is stand by and watch (and throw in the occasional one-liner). The framing sequence featuring Ragdoll is funny as hell and more than a little disturbing, but what do you expect from him? I can’t say I was particularly happy with the art this issue, but it’s serviceable.

I also grabbed the trade of the first Casanova story arc, which was (of course) pretty awesome and will (I’m thinking) read better all at once than in single issues.

Stupid Weather

Look, I’m a teacher. I love my job, I love working and all, but I also love snow days. They are one of the perks of the job: when the weather outside is frightful, I get to sleep in while the rest of the schmucks telecommute or, hell, even actually drive into work through the snow. If we don’t get a snow day once in awhile, I feel like we’re really not getting all of our benefits.

All that being said: why the hell have we not had a single damn snow day yet? The dustings we’ve had this winter? Pathetic. While everyone around us has had inches upon inches of snow dumped upon them in some sorta winter wonderland (for example, my wife’s uncle just mentioned that where he is in Westchester County, NY, is getting between 16 and 22 inches of snow tonight, while we will get…um…maybe 1 to 3), we’ve been sitting here, waiting to see if we’ll get any sort of snow. Nothin’ worth writing home about so far, though.

So c’mon, weather: let’s get with the program, huh?

The Pull List – January 5th

Kind of a slim start to the new year, but here we go nonetheless!

Weird Worlds #1: This is an odd little anthology title, and while it has some promise (art by Jerry Ordway, Aaron Lopresti, and Kevin Magiure? It’s like Christmas again!), the writing and the characters feel a bit flat to me. The Lobo story feels like it’s something we’ve seen before, Garbage Man feels rather like Swamp Thing, and…well, actually, I quite liked Maguire’s offering, Tanga, probably because it feels like the sort of thing I could see Maguire doing with his old JLI buddies, Giffen and DeMatties.

Doom Patrol #18: This issue is mostly fighting, but it’s fun and energetic fighting. We get to see the Patrol run up against the Bostwick family, a group of people with “mandatory immortality.” The Patrol hold their own against the group, and Rita’s pounding of the Bostwick son is pretty classic. Also, the recap pages continue to be hysterical, up there with anything Pak and Van Lente did on Incredible Hercules in terms of combining effective summary and smart humor. Good stuff.

I also grabbed a couple of trades: the fourth volume of Fraction and Larroca’s Invincible Iron Man, which finds Tony Stark trying to reboot his brain, and the first volume of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run, which I’ve heard good things about.

Delayed Reaction – Huey Lewis and The News: Your Dad’s Rock and Roll Band

Okay, so I have a bit of a confession to make: I really dig Huey Lewis and the News.

Yeah, I know, they’re about as hip as a shattered pelvis, but I can’t really help myself: I’m a sucker for dad rock.

And really, no one does dad rock better. Hell, Huey Lewis looks like he could be your dad (or someone’s dad, anyway), and he does those embarrassing things to try to sound cool and hip (even playing a song called “Hip to be Square,” which, for those of you born after 1985, is a reference to the fact that “squares” were boring, dorky people, so he’s really saying that it’s cool to be uncool, which I think we can all agree is not the case). But I love the band anyway, possibly specifically because of Lewis’s earnestness and gosh-shucks dad charm. He’s an Everyman, a guy with a bit of gravel in his voice, singing fairly uncomplicated songs about working, trying to have a decent adult relationship, and the daily crap we all have to deal with as we grow up. This is music with a mortgage and car payments, a baby seat in the backseat of the sensible four-door sedan, a receding hair line, and a desire to cut loose on the weekend, maybe drink a beer or two, and have some fun with the guys. It’s music with a beer gut and a 9 to 5 job, but it doesn’t ever try to pretend that it’s younger than it is or cooler than it is. This is comfortable, fun music, and it doesn’t get any better than the Sports album.

Oh, others may espouse the wonders of Fore!, or hold up the band’s 1985 masterpiece “The Power of Love” from the movie Back to the Future, but I know the score: Sports is the perfect distillation of what Huey Lewis and the News were all about. There’s plenty of loud guitars, cheesy keyboards, brassy horns, and doowap-inspired vocal harmonies.

The album opens with “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” a tune that is as much a statement of purpose as anything the band ever recorded. With it’s city-checking lyrics, subtle organ, and heartbeat-simulating kickdrum, it’s just fun. It’s followed by “Heart and Soul,” with its unmistakable riff and simple message of love (or at least lust). Next up is “Bad is Bad,” a song that pummels ’80s slang and points out that, sometimes, “bad” (which again, for those of you born after 1985, meant someone was cool or hip and didn’t care about authority) means “bad” (as in “not good”). It’s clever and funny and features some great backing harmonies. “I Want a New Drug,” of course, is the song Ray Parker, Jr. “borrowed” for the Ghostbusters theme song, but it’s also an extended metaphor about wanting to find a drug that feels as good as being with the one you love.

The back half of the album doesn’t quite live up to the awesomeness of that first side. “Walking on a Thin Line” is good if not exactly remarkable, and “Finally Found a Home” is just downright boring. “If This is It” is one of those sing-along love songs you know even if you don’t really know it. “You Crack Me Up” is uptempo but ultimately forgettable; “Honky Tonk Blues” is a fun cover of the old Hank Williams, Sr., tune (and really, you can’t go wrong with a little Hank Sr.).

And that’s it for the album. It’s short (only 9 songs long), but there’s a lot of power in that short list. Sure, not everything on second side lives up to the sheer awesomeness of the first side, but it’s a tall order to top such great songs. Honestly, if you only listen to one pop-rock record from the mid-80s, make it Sports.

The Top 25 Most-Played Songs for 2010

As with every year, I’m about to reset the play count on my iPod. Before I do that, though, let’s see what got the most play this year.

1. The New Pornographers, “The Bleeding Heart Show” – 48
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Cotton Fields” – 43
3. The National, “Ashamed Of The Story I Told” – 38
4. The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” – 38
5. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Midnight Special” – 37
6. The Gaslight Anthem, “Stay Lucky” – 35
7. Jakob Dylan, “Everybody’s Hurting” – 34
8. The New Pornographers, “Sing Me Spanish Techno” – 33
9. Harlem Shakes, “Strictly Game” – 32
10. Josh Ritter, “Wait For Love (You Know You Will)” – 31
11. Dawes, “That Western Skyline” – 30
12. A.C. Newman, “Take On Me” – 28
13. Bruce Springsteen, “Hungry Heart” – 27
14. Jakob Dylan, “Holy Rollers For Love” – 27
15. Cat Stevens, “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” – 26
16. Andrew Bird, “Fiery Crash” – 23
17. Jakob Dylan, “Lend A Hand” – 23
18. She & Him, “In The Sun” – 23
19. The Band, “The Weight” – 22
20. Bon Iver, “Flume” – 22
21. Eric Clapton, “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart” – 22
22. Great Lake Swimmers, “Everything Is Moving So Fast” – 22
23. Great Lake Swimmers, “Pulling On A Line” – 22
24. The Spencer Davis Group, “Gimme Some Lovin'” – 22
25. Steve Winwood, “Back In The High Life Again” – 21

The Pull List – December 29th

Hey, it’s the last comics of 2010! Here we go!

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #4: This title has grown on me. Kaare Andrews’s art is pretty damn good, Warren Ellis’s script is loads of fun, but those damn outfits are just painful. Seriously, the trucker hats? I really want them to go away.

The Flash #8: This issue revises the origin of the Reverse Flash, and uses time travel (something the Reverse Flash does quite a lot of, apparently?) in a pretty interesting way to do some honest to God revisionist history on his own life story. It’s clever, though Scott Kolins’s art leaves me kinda cold.

Action Comics #896: This is the first of a two-part crossover with Secret Six, and while it’s mostly just an extended fight scene, it’s a really well-done, entertaining extended fight scene. Cornell comes up with some great lines from the Six, stuff that wouldn’t feel out of place coming from Gail Simone’s pen. Good stuff.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5: I’m still really not at all sure what’s happening in this book, but it always looks absolutely beautiful. This issue is no exception. We do get a pretty cool reveal at the end of the issue, and a few more pieces are lined up for next issue’s conclusion. Maybe it’ll all make sense after that? Who knows.

Detective Comics #872: The second part of the Black Mirror hits in this issue, and it’s pretty damn good. There’s a clever trap laid for Batman, some good character interaction between Batman and Harvey Bullock, and a nice twist at the end. I’m hooked into the story, and interested to see how the backup feature with Commissioner Gordon’s son will tie in.

I also grabbed the third Secret Warriors trade. It’s good, though I still only really recognize Nick Fury in terms of the characters in the story. The art is fantastic, though.