Hulk Trade Post: World War Hulk & Planet Skaar

World War Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by John Romita Jr.
Collects World War Hulk #1-5

After recently reading and really enjoying the first few books of Greg Pak’s run on Incredible Hulk, I wanted to go back and read what’s been happening to Hulk since Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, so I decided to give WWH another read. I had my problems with it when it first came out, for two specific reasons: first, I don’t really dig JRJR’s artwork and second, I thought some of the cooler aspects of the story were kept off panel (the fight with Blackbolt).

Did I have the same problems going in this time? Well,  yeah, mostly. I still just can’t get into JRJR’s art. I like he draws Hulk, Doctor Strange and some of the War Bound, but the new Hulk Buster Iron Man armor just looked silly. This might sound odd, but I’m also not a fan of how he draws rubble. It always looks like multicolored toothpicks thrown at a panel and glued down. His faces also don’t carry much weight when the camera is pulled back past full-figure level.

But even that didn’t completely detract from my enjoyment of a big, bonkers series where Hulk essentially wages war on Earth and the people who sent him into space. I still wish the Blackbolt fight had been shown on panel, even if it was a Skrull or whatever and I’m not a big fan of the reveal about how the Hulk’s ship actually blew up on Sakaar, but overall, it’s a compelling story. There’s definitely the feeling, though, that this could have been a lot crazier if there wasn’t so much continuity and other books to worry about.

With the end of this series, Jeph Loeb hopped in and started writing the simply title Hulk, while Hercules took over Incredible Hulk — still written by Pak — and Pak also started writing the adventures of the son Hulk didn’t even realize he had on Sakaar (Skaar). This is where I fell off as the books were originally coming out.

Hulk: Planet Skaar (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by Butch Guice, Ron Lim & Dan Panosian
Skaar: Son of Hulk #7-12, Planet Skaar Prologue

The reason I didn’t keep up on Skaar is because I was just confused. I was under the impression that, at the end of Planet Hulk, most of the planet was actually destroyed, so I had no idea how this little dude was alive or how he was born from a woman that died on a planet that exploded. This seemed like a good enough place to take a break on Hulk, so I stepped out of all of it.

I wanted to get my hands on the first collection of Skaar comics, but couldn’t and didn’t want to wait too long before reading this collection and moving on to some of the other Loeb books I’d picked up. This one was a lot of fun, as it turns out. Not only did I get a much better idea of who Skaar is as a character, but it was also fun to see him living something of the same life his dad did, but making very different choices. He even winds up fighting alongside and enslaved Silver Surfer, but this time, the Surfer is working for Galactus and he gets brought into the mix. The way Skaar wants to handle keeping Galactus away from his home planet is pretty intense, but again shows how he differs from pops.

I get the idea that this is basically the kind of Hulk Pak would have written if this was a creator owned book. He’s on another planet and a total badass, so he can basically do whatever the hell he wants and does. And in the fact that it acts as a nice endcap to one of my favorite comic arcs — Planet Hulk — works on it’s own and leads well into the Incredible Hulk stuff I like and I’m happy with the story all around.

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Casting Internets

My friends Alex and Elizabeth and their bandmates in The Faulkner Detectives just got signed to Livid Records!

I need to get some bitters so I can try Michael Ruhlman‘s recipe for an Old Fashioned.

I love what Mark Waid is doing with Thrillbent (which launches in a few days now that I think about it). It’s really interesting reading this post about changing how he writes for the new format.

I’ve never heard of Pajiba.com, but I thought this post written by Dustin Rowles about how pop culture sites make money off of annoying pop up ads was really interesting and surprisingly honest.

Wired posted this piece about why the Super Mario movie sucked. Very interesting stuff. I love behind the scenes explanations. The most surprising bit? How little Nintendo seemed to care about the whole thing.

The timing on this one was pretty funny, just after my wife and I purchased a used 2012 Mazda 5, GeekDad did a post about buying the same car!

Jack White is creating these core for The Lone Ranger flick. Not really interested in that movie as of now, but this is a very interesting move. (via Variety)

Speaking of White, Rolling Stone gave his first solo record Blunderbuss a really glowing review, making me even more excited to get my digital hands on it.

Wynton Marsalis isn’t my favorite jazz guy around, but the idea of him teaming up with Paul Simon is very intriguing. I’d like to hear how those tunes turned out. (via Rolling Stone)

Speaking of epic team-ups I read about on Rolling Stone, the Johnny Cash tribute concert featuring Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow sounds pretty fantastic as well. They even covered a Highwaymen song with Nelson, Shooter Jennings and Kris Kristofferson!

I agree with Robot 6‘s Tom Bondurant (aka Grumpy Old Fan) when he says that DC keeping Batman and Green Lantern continuity mostly the same creates only headaches for the New 52. His assessment of the continuity for those two properties before and after the reboot seem pretty right on.

Finally, congrats on The Fwoosh‘s 10th anniversary. Head over and check out their celebration of a decade on the nets.

Ad It Up: Double Dragon

When I look at this page I realize that Tradewest and the rest of the video game companies putting out games in the early days of the home video game market did not have Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price helping them out with their ads. I can not get Roger Sterling’s voice out of my head saying, “Why do the musclebound brothers look like their going to kiss?” I’m not crazy, right? That image conveys longing and love, not the “Let’s go kick ass and get our gut-punched girlfriend back!” spirit of the game itself, which is awesome by the way. An odd choice to say the least.

Quick Video Game Reviews: Skate 3, Gears Of War 2 & Madden 2011

My video game habits greatly depend on how I’m feeling any given day, how lucky I’ve been in choosing cheap used games to play and whether I’ve decided to write or waste time with digital tasks to complete. I looked back and realized I haven’t talked about a video game since last summer, but I’ve still been playing, just not writing about them as much. I figured this would be a good way to catch up a bit.

One of the longest and best gaming experiences I had came from playing Skate 3. Skate 2 was a game I got sent for free way back in 2008 or 2009 when I worked at Wizard. Video game companies would send a bunch of games to the office every now and then and they’d get disseminated throughout the office. I was lucky enough to get a copy and even reviewed it on the old ToyFare blog, but that no longer exists and thus can not be referred to. So, I’ll summarize and say that I really liked the teleport function on the map, enjoyed getting better and better bit by bit at the various challenges and greatly appreciated the variety of said challenges. I did have some trouble getting the hang of some of the controls, but it wasn’t so bad.

I felt very much the same way about Skate 3. I haven’t played a lot of sequels to Xbox games I’ve enjoyed — Crackdown 2 is about the only one I can think of and that was a huge gigantic disappointment — but I’m glad they were able to keep the same quality, not mess with the difficulty level too much and still give me a game that lasted me quite a while and remained enjoyable the whole time. I even finished all the challenges but one and have even gone back to play a few things again when I’m bored or just want to have some fun flying through the air. I’ve never been a skater, but I like how this game makes me feel like I could possibly do it.

It looks like I didn’t actually write about the first Gears Of War game, but I did enjoy it. I can get a little tired of the whole “space soliders” game (yeah, I know they’re on Earth in GOW, but it’s the same idea), but they gave me just the right about of actual game to play without feeling too long or boring. It took me a while to the hang of whole duck-and-cover game play mechanic, but once I did things moved along pretty smoothly.

I had a very similar experience with GOW 2, making it the second 360 sequel in this post that I not only liked but had a lot of fun with. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to finish the game, but I don’t think it was very long. Since I only pay around $20 for a game, I don’t mind if it doesn’t give me 60 hours of gameplay. It’d be different if I was paying $60, but I’m not, so I’m okay with a fun, quick and concise game.

There were some pretty intense moments and a few interesting boards. I didn’t have too much trouble with any of the levels or bad guys which I also like. I play these games to have fun and relieve stress, not challenge myself for days to kill one dumb alien. So far, GOW has been the series that I’m most excited about catching up on when it comes to 360 games, but only because I don’t think there’s going to be another Skate game in the near future.

I had a very similar experience with Madden 2011 that I did with Skate 2. I’ve been playing it for quite a while and enjoyed all the challenges therein. I played a few random games then started a franchise and won the Super Bowl after an undefeated season as the Steelers.

After that, I went and moved up to the next difficulty level. Man, there is a huge difference between the two. Like I said, I won every single game on one level, then could not win a game on the next. I’m not sure what the deal was. I could not complete a pass or get more than a few yards on the run. I was hoping for more of a challenge, but not the cold, hard realization that I might suck incredibly bad at this game.

So, what did I do? Instead of completely giving up and moving on to another game, noting that I had gotten plenty of fun out of whatever the used price was, I switched teams. To the Lions. I’m still undefeated with them, but it doesn’t feel like as much of a gimme because it’s the Lions and they hadn’t had their great season when this game was made. I know that’ silly, but it works for me.

Loveless Trade Post: All Three Volumes

After reading all 13 volumes of Brian Azzarello’s Vertigo book 100 Bullets, I decided to snag the second volume of his western series Loveless that I was missing and give the whole thing a read through. The book ran for 24 artists and included artists like Marcelo Frusin, Daniel Zezelj and Werther Dell’Edera. It’s a post-Civil War story about a husband and wife who both survived the war in a southern town called Blackwater, but each earning their scars. Wes Cutter saw all kinds of horrors and realized that many of the distinctions that men place on themselves don’t really matter worth a damn while his wife Ruth did what she had to survive which partially lead to a savage sexual assault at the hands of Union soldiers. Wes returns to Blackwater backed by a mysterious young man (SPOILER, it’s actually Ruth with short hair). The book also focuses on a freed slave turned bounty hunter who also happened to be one of Ruth’s attackers as well as some of the Union soldiers stationed in the south to help with rebuilding.

So, yeah, there’s a lot going on in this book and, like 100 Bullets, the book is populated with some really despicable characters, though you wind up feeling for Wes and Ruth as the wronged couple trying to get their lives back on track even though the whole world seems dead set on keeping them off balance. Hell, off balance is an understatement.

But, even in the face of some really terrible stuff, Ruth and Wes are the kind of couple you just can’t help but root for. Even without all the bad things that happened to them, I just liked how dedicated and in love they were with each other. I’m drawn to couples that don’t fit squarely into the basic gender roles and all that where they really get a long and make things work. That reminds me of my relationship with my wife and I like seeing that reflected in fiction.

However, there are a few problems with the series. First off, I wish Marcelo Frusin would have been able to draw the entire book. The other artists do alright, but when reading a series like this that doesn’t last very long and is self contained, I’d much rather see one consistent art style throughout the whole thing. It doens’t help that Zezelj’s linework is incredibly thick and sometimes very difficult to read. I think they might have been trying to achieve the kind of dark shadows that can intensify a scene on TV or in a movie, but it just comes off as okay at best and unintelligible at worst.

My other major problem with this series is the ending. There’s an end of sorts to the Wes and Ruth tale that seems like it will continue on in some fashion and then you get a few more issues set much further ahead in time and deal either with brand new characters or tertiary-at-best ones. At first it seemed like the time jumps would show you what happened to the important characters in the series through these other people, but that’s not the case. And then it just ends. I don’t know if the book was cancelled prematurely or what, but it definitely feels like it. I wonder if he was going for a kind of Coen Brothers ending where the actual action of the finale is off screen and discussed later, but it doesn’t come off like that. Instead it feels like you get a somewhat satisfying ending and then teased with another potential group of story details only to wind up lacking.

So, while the ending fails to a great extent and the art is uneven, I liked this series as a whole and I think it all boils down to my like of Wes and Ruth Cutter as characters. I feel a strong connection to them and was right there with them as much as possible. There’s some lack of focus, but those two as well as all the other characters were rich enough to keep me engaged.

The Box: Solar #21, Ultraverse Break-Thru #2 & Micronauts #1

Here we have three more random books chosen at random and reviewed to the best of my abilities. I started off with Solar: Man Of The Atom #21 from Valiant, printed in 1993. The issue was written by Kevin Vanhook with pencils by Peter Grau and I’ll be honest, it didn’t do much for me making it the second Valaint book in a row that I didn’t like.

The main problem is that this is the 21st issue of a comic and I have close to no understanding of what’s going on. There’s some recap in the dialog boxes, but overall, I didn’t feel much connection to the characters or what was happening to them.

I did however like Grau’s art. It’s solid from a storytelling point of view and it looks like he got to have some real fun with the more outlandish characters and how some of the powers looked. His normal people aren’t particularly interesting, but when you’re dealing with super people in body-covering spandex, that’s not uncommon. There’s also an interesting kind of coloring going on in this comic that reminds me a bit of the original Milestone books as well as the other Valiant comics I’ve looked through. It’s got a pastel or colored pencil feel to it as opposed to the deep, rich colors you see in most comics these days. That might be thanks to different coloring methods or a difference in paper (this is newsprint and therefor not glossy).

The coolest thing about this comic? That rad Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti cover.

I had a lot more fun reading Ultraverse Break-Thru #2, though I had equally less knowledge of what the heck was actually going on. The issue came out from Malibu in 1994, was written by Gerard Jones with art by the amazing George Perez. There is a gigantic amount of information foisted upon the reader in this issue which acts as the second part in what appears to be a gigantic crossover featuring (I think) every character in the Malibu universe. You’ve got Prime, Hardcase, Ultraforce, Mantra, Sludge, The Strangers, Rune, Freex and lots more. If those names don’t ring a bell, we’re pretty much in the same boat. I had read two Prime comics in my life as a comic fan and remember watching the Ultraforce cartoon when it was on, but that’s about it.

Still, it seemed like Jones gave me enough information to follow along with what was going on, no small feat considering this is the SECOND issue of a COMPANY WIDE event. I didn’t feel lost about what was going on in the story, though I did not necesarrily know who the characters were or what their pasts were. This was a much better reading experience than something like Deathwatch 2000 Earth 4 which had a slew of characters I didn’t know or understand whatsoever. That book turned me off to pretty much all of Continuity Comics, whereas this one made me want to actually read a few more Malibu comics. I was always curious about the other Prime issues and I’ve heard from quite a few people that Sludge was actually pretty good. That alone makes this one of the better experiences I’ve had with The Box thus far.

Are you a Micronauts fan? Did you stumble across the toys at the toy store as a kid, then go on to discover and love the Marvel comic? Then, Micronauts #1 from Devil’s Due written by Dan Jolley with art by Pat Broderick might be a great read for you. If not, you’ll be shown a series of actions that mean next to nothing because they have almost no context. As a new reader I know that the Micronauts have been beaten down and their villain Baron Karza is seemingly on the loose. Or something.

They wind up working for another guy which sets a new status quo, we learn who the new Baron Karza is and what happened to the original. The problem, though, is that there’s nothing in this issue that makes me care about any of that. A number one issue like this should be a perfect entry point for everyone and get any possible reader absorbed right in. Not the case though.

I did like Broderick’s artwork, it has a fun cartooniness to it in certain panels. There’s one priceless look of shock on a regular guy’s face at one point in one of the scenes that made me chuckle. I think some of the line work was overdone with lots of extra black lines that give some of the finished product a cluttered look, but overall he did a solid job.

Watching The Muppet Show

As I said in my post about the excellent film The Muppets, I missed out on most of The Muppet Show. The series started off and ended before I was born and wasn’t on in reruns that I remember as a kid. I did, however, love The Muppet Babies, but that series focused on a much smaller group of characters. Between The Muppets and Being Elmo, though my curiosity was piqued, so I moved the first disc of the first season of The Muppet Show to the top of my Netflix DVD queue and watched it with my wife and daughter last week.

The amount of creativity and humor that went into the series is mind blowing. It actually reminds me a lot of the early seasons of Saturday Night Live, which only kicked off a year before the Muppets finally made it to air in 1976. Note that SNL actually featured Jim Henson Muppets as well for the first season or two.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with the first disc even if I didn’t recognize many of the celebrity guest hosts or the Muppets themselves. There’s just so much pure creative force coming across from Henson, Frank Oz and the rest of the gang. The sketches are funny on their own and would be even with human actors, but when you take into account the fact that these guys were literally creating these characters on the spot, giving them voices and personalities and make a show every week, that’s even more impressive. I’m inspired by that kind of creativity.

Like I said, I’m still new to The Muppet Show, but I’m excited about slowly making my way through it. I’m looking at it like any other sketch comedy show, which is an area of television that I’m looking to explore more fully outside of SNL. Should be a fun journey.