Trade Post: Finals

Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Jill Thompson
Collects Finals #1-4
I first read Finals while at Wizard. Will Pfeifer had recently made a name for himself on high quality but under the radar books like HERO and Aquaman. Some of the guys there were pretty high on this four issue miniseries from 1999 that he wrote and suggested I check it out. I dug it then and liked it even more upon this second reading. I’m really glad that Vertigo collected the four issue mini so simply. I’d love to see more of these mini-trades/square bound reprints in the future, especially at $8 a pop.

Finals is about a group of college students at Knox University, a school that encourages every student to complete a very aggressive senior project in order to graduate. Gary allowed himself to devolve over the semester. Dave’s a criminal justice major who’s been committing robberies all over town. Nancy started a cult. Tim invented a time machine that actually works. And Wally, well, Wally needs to come up with something that fits into his “Extreme Cinema Verite” idea that he completely bullshitted his way through. All of this takes place in a hyper version of reality where lives are next to meaningless and knowledge equals strength, which makes Wally’s slacker bumbling and struggle for a project all the more interesting.

I’m very impressed with how Pfeifer put this story together. It doesn’t just zero in on Wally and his relationship with Nancy. They’re definitely the focus, but Wally’s roomies Gary, Dave and Tim all get not only their fair share of scenes, but more importantly solid arcs that pick them up at the beginning of the semester or school year and sees where they wind up by the end. It’s a lot to pack into a four issue comic and he handles it with ease. Pfeifer also captured the intensity and ridiculousness of college that rings true even with murder and time travel in the mix.

From an art standpoint, Jill Thompson does a fun job of it, but the interiors don’t really remind me of her usual style. It actually reminds me of a looser version of Sean Phillips on Sleeper. Her visual storytelling chops are spot on and her art keeps the sometimes serious or over the top moments from getting TOO serious (there’s a lot of death in the book). All in all it’s a great package.

Reading Finals again actually bummed me out a little bit because I miss Pfeifer as a writer and the Vertigo of years past. Like I said, I really like HERO and Aquaman and his Catwoman run had it’s moments but never really grabbed me. It is interesting that Wally here was a film buff and Pfeifer pitted Catwoman against Film Freak. Anyway, it seems like something happened around the time of Amazon’s Attack and either the writer felt burned out or lost favor. It’s too bad because I think he had a lot of talent and would like to see what else he has in him. Meanwhile, Vertigo seems to have lost a lot of it’s variety over the years. They’ve got magic-based books and violent books and what else? I’m honestly not sure anymore. I’d like to see them get back to a place where they give new writers like Pfeifer a chance to shine with concise stories. Seems like a lot of this kind of talent is heading over to Image or the smaller companies, but also that they’re looking for more long term books than things like Finals anymore. Maybe if this 100-Page Spectacular sells well enough it could lead to not only a return of Pfeifer but also a little more variety from Vertigo.

Audiobook Review: The Scarpetta Factor by Patricia Cornwell, Read by Kate Burton

Even after having somewhat mixed feelings about our previous audiobook listening experience with Robert Parker’s Widow’s Walk, the missus and I decided to give another book a listen on our way back from Ohio after New Year’s. While perusing a rack at a rest stop, we stumbled across Patricia Cornwell’s The Scarpetta Factor. Unlike most of the other sets on the stand, we had at least heard of Cornwell and after the missus read the back and declared it was kind of like Bones, I was sold. The trip wound up being shorter than the audiobook, so it wasn’t until this weekend while driving all over creation registering for baby stuff at Baby’s R Us or checking out potential sleeper sofas at Bob’s that we finally finished the endeavor. We both agreed that this one was a lot more absorbing and quick than Walk wound up being.

Our main, or at least titular, character is Kay Scarpetta a medical examiner who’s a big enough deal to regularly appear on CNN to help explain modern medical practices and how they can be used in forensic investigations. This is one of the more recent entries in a series that goes back to 1986, so there’s a lot going on with relationships and whatnot that were revealed to the new reader (which we were). She’s married to a forensic psychologist who used to work for the FBI and her niece is a tech whiz with a mad on for seemingly everyone and also happens to be dating the DA that Scarpetta works with along with NYPD detective Pete Marino. This book picks up with the unusual death of a young woman who was dumped in the park which may or may not be related to the disappearance of a celebrity financial whiz. There is a LOT going on in this book with investigations into the recently dead girl, the missing financial lady and attacks on Scarpetta from a crazy woman who her husband used to treat. There’s also references back to her husband Benton’s past in the FBI which I assume were mentioned in previous books, but who knows?

The story here is very tight and intricate, sometimes taking veers off into other areas that don’t seem like they matter quite so much which really absorbed us as we were driving along. I really thought about ripping the last disc onto my computer to play out loud the veryย  next day, but wanted to finish it with the missus. I’ll be honest, there were still some aspects of the book that I’m not completely sure I understand, but that’s kind of good. Widow’s Walk ended with a complete recap of what happened which felt very much like a TV movie. There’s still a bit of that in this book, but it didn’t seem quite as “here’s every single thing that happened in case you missed it.” Another thing I liked about the book is that it felt like we were getting a view at a chunk of someone’s life instead of just a case they were working on. Sure, the action is kicked off by a murder, but the solving of that murder is not the only thing going on. We get into Benton’s past, Lucy’s love life and plenty of other strange occurrences going on. As it turns out, many of them are related, but not everything. I like that slice of life aspect over the alternative.

Unlike Widow’s Walk, there’s no mistaking Scarpetta Factor as a modern work of fiction because the characters–who work as a kind of crime fighting team–are constantly sending each other information pertinent to the various cases using their phones or macbooks. I really enjoyed the use of technology in this book, which is something that I haven’t even really seen on TV shows with similar themes. These people can share information with one another in seconds, which is how it seems like these things should work considering how powerful smart phones have become. In fact, it’s an interesting twist how quickly some of the characters get upset when they can no longer contact their loved ones and co-workers immediately. The end of this book would have been completely different had it been set even five years back.

Something interesting I noticed after we finished listening today was that this happened to be the abridged version of the book. The picture above is of the unabridged version, it’s not a huge image, but I think it says that version has something like 10 discs. It makes me wonder what we missed. Did they cut out chapters or subplots? Or is it something as simple as removing some of the “he saids”? If it was just to make things more theatrical that’s great, but if huge things were taken out that’s kind of a bummer. Does anyone know what the difference might be?

All in all we both really enjoyed this book. While Widow’s Walk piqued our interest in audiobooks, Scarpetta Factor solidified it. I’ll definitely keep my eyes peeled for more Patricia Cornwell novels in the future.

Quick Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

Nic Cage is one of those actors that I like only in certain roles, basically ones that embrace his craziness and don’t try to bury it under subtext. The two National Treasure movies are big favorites of the missus and I because Cage gets to be just crazy enough and the stories are a lot of fun. Sure, they’re sometimes over the top and might not make logical sense, but who cares? Not every movie needs to change the way you see the world, some just need to entertain. It just so happens that Jon Turtletaub directed both NT movies as well as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the movie based on the segment of Disney’s Fantasia of the same name with all the mops and brooms and water. Like most, I was skeptical at first, but once I realized who was directing, I figured it would be a good watch. Plus, I dig Jay Baruchel and his nebbishy shtick.

The missus got sent home from work today because of yet another snow storm that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon and we happened to get this flick from Netflix yesterday, so the timing was perfect. And, thankfully, the movie was a lot of fun. Neither of us liked it quite as much as the National Treasure movies, but it was a fun watch about a 20-something kid discovering he’s got a magical destiny to help Cage (a sorcerer) keep Morgan La Fey entrapped even with Alfred Molina and his Criss Angel-like sidekick trying to help her. Of course, there’s also a girl who Baruchel is trying to impress which gets in the way of his training and there’s a moment where it seems like one of the good guys is going to die, but SPOILER everything works out pretty well in the end.

An aspect of the movie that I found really interesting that has the potnetial to get explored in a sequel if one is in the works is the idea that sorcerers can do magic because they can use 100% of their brains. This allows them to control atoms. As it turns out Baruchel’s character is a physicist, so it would stand to reason, now that he’s not a novice anymore, he might have a different take on magic that could be revolutionary. If there is a sequel, I’d like to see that explored, plus a much bigger final battle. The one in this movie would have actually made for a pretty interesting beginning to a movie with all these dead sorcerers rising from the dead and our heroes having to fight them, but that’s not what this story was about. Maybe next time! Theme-wise it’s not the most original movie in the world, but a solid combination of great special effects and fun actors doing their thing made this a pretty enjoyable watch.

Casting Internets

Hey gang, things have been a bit slow around here today because I’m working on some freelance and a longer Halloween Scene based on Simon Oliver’s Exterminators, so look for that before midnight. In the meantime, I found some fun links today.

My buddy Jim McCann has a new comic coming out called The Return Of The Dapper Men with artist Janet Lee from Archaia. If you’re friends with Jim on Facebook this is old news as he’s been posting the crap out of it lately ๐Ÿ™‚ (via CBR)

In other comics news, James Robinson will be returning to Starman with Starman #81, part of a skip week event that ties into Blackest Night and resurrects canceled books. According to this story on CBR, Robinson says Jack Knight won’t be in it, but look for the supporting characters both dead and alive to make appearances. Here’s hoping they can get Tony Harris or Peter Snejbjerg to work on the art.

And finally, in science news that may become apocryphal, there’s a theory that the Large Hadron Collider is having so many problems because the future is trying to stop scientists from looking at one of the fundamental particles of existence because we’re not supposed to see it. Crazy right? And you thought mini black holes were the only potential problems with this thing. (via io9)

Casting Internets

First off, I just wanted to thank everyone for coming to the site, as of today I’ve gotten 5,007 hits since the site launched in April. I hope you guys are enjoying this as much as I am. I was planning on updating the site away from the basic Blogger template, but since I’m no longer employed, that will have to wait. Do keep an eye out for a brand new logo coming your way soon and a few other original art do-dads.

A lot’s been going on and I’m still playing catch up, but I wanted to link to a few things I’ve seen on the net lately.

First off, check out Rickey’s awesome Patrick Swayze tribute. He’s planning on doing a different Swayze drawing every day for the rest of this month and I can’t think of a better tribute to a dude we both loved.

In lighter news, the Brickehousebunny21/Topless Robot/WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS shenanigans got kicked up a notch today as Brickehousebunny21 threatened Rob with “Everyone here is in trouble now…” Do yourself a favor and read the full post and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can get all the info you need from this post I did yesterday.

In Wires Science news, a couple of college students built a camera that took pictures of the edge of space for under $150. Kinda makes me wish I had a knack for science. Also, here’s a picture of a girl in zero gravity sporting a Supergirl costume. I didn’t really readthe article, but that’s a rad pic.

Over on Enemy of Peanuts, Jim posted some pictures from All Points West, looks like it would have been a lot of fun and I’m super jealous of him for getting to see Jay-Z live even if he was replacing the Beastie Boys. I gotta see Hova one of these days.

Meanwhile, over at The Cool Kids Table, Ben’s been posting like crazy, whether it’s about the original Suicide Squad run (a great book he turned me on to), the X-Men arcade game (in the top 3 up there with TMNT and The Simpsons) or going away presents that former and formerly former ToyFare staffers got (awesome custom toys), it’s all goodness.

And finally, a note to the ladies, if you’re going to kiss Captain Kirk, watch out for that last step, it’s a doozey:

Casting Internets

According to Toy News International, I’ll have a second chance to score a Masters of the Universe Classics Skeletor figure! Here’s my second chance to get a Skeletor!

Wired says I’m screwed for multitasking. Maybe that’s why my brain completely shuts down and I just sit staring at my desk for minutes at a time without being able to remember what I was furiously doing a second ago. Not good…

Kiel’s Linko XIX post brought this amazing blog to my attention. It’s a whole blog dedicated to people drawing in Jack Kriby’s style called Kirby-Vision.

My buddy Alex of DC’s The Source, runs down a bunch of comics sites “you should bookmark immediately” in a guest blog over at PopCandy. UnitedMonkee must have JUST missed the cut ๐Ÿ™‚

And finally, a group of friends and I have been kicking around Weezer memories lately, which got me thinking about back in 2002 when Maladroit came out and I drove two hours home from Delaware, Ohio to Toledo to buy the record at midnight the day it came out at my beloved and now long gone Boogie Records. New-at-the-time Weezer bass player Scott Shriner was also from Toledo and it happened that his dad was at Boogie picking up his own copy of the record. Someone snapped a pic and sent it to and it just so happened that I was in it! Em’s there too, though she does not care and I’m talking to my friend who got me into Weezer, but he didn’t make the shot. I couldn’t find the picture anywhere, so I sent an email to Karl at and before the day was through he sent it to me. Thanks Karl. Here’s the pic (this is as big as it gets):

Casting Internets

I gathered most of these links last Friday, but got a bit lazy and haven’t posted them till today. They’re still worth a look, I think.

This one’s from today and it’s about Tarantino’s movie universes. Apparently there’s some linkage between Inglorious Basterds and the Tarantino-written True Romance. Very cool. And as I’ve said before (when I’ve incorrectly guessed the release date of the movie at least twice) I can’t wait for this movie. (via /Film)

Please, please do yourself a favor and check out the best and worst nerdy pick-up lines the female readers of Topless Robot have heard
. They’re amazingly hilarious and sometimes even sweet.

A week or two back, BC at Horror Movie A Day reviewed Sea Beast, which I watched and had nearly identical thoughts on. Instead of posting a similar review, I figured I’d just link to his.

Ben Morse has posted all of his ridiculously awesome Nova sketchbook here, here and here. Everyone’s talking about how cool the Jim Lee one, which is totally true, but I think Ethan Van Sciver’s (below) is my favorite.

According to DC’s The Source blog, John Carpenter wrote the intro to Steve Niles and Kelley Jones’ Gotham After Midnight trade. I talked about this crazy awesome horror comics here, but lost track of the rest of the issues and can’t wait to read it in trade.

I never knew what it was called, but I’ve always loved the “cut/slide” moment in a movie (usually horror). It’s the part where after someone gets sliced in some manner, their diced body part slowly slides down the line of the cut. Thanks to /Film for explaining and drawing my attention to this highly violent video.

Wired posted this awesome picture of an early concept model of the Apollo lander. I love this kind of stuff. I wonder if these dudes were heavily into sci-fi.

Here’s another one from’s science pages, a group of Canadian mathematicians developed an equation for dealing with a zombie outbreak. As someone who has figured out the best place to hole up given several locations in my daily life (the Palisades Mall is number 1 if you can get it fortified, it even has an ice rink!), I can definitely appreciate these guys trying and succeeding to get credit for such geekery.

Finally, check out the “10 Horrible Paintings from Atari 2600 Game Box Art” list over at Topless Robot, as always, it’s a hoot.