Saturday, May 31, 2008

Review: PS238 Vol. 5

I think I've said this before but it does bear repeating; if you don't love PS238, you clearly do not love joy. I mean, you must be some kind of brain damaged fool who enjoys truly awful comics that have no redeeming value to anyone human.

Aaron Williams has pulled of a mean feat with this series; It has a huge cast of characters, multiple layers of ongoing and sub-plots and mysteries, and he uses a fair number of analogues for various corporate owned super-hero properties. Oh, it's also about little kids, so that should basically give it the kiss of death right there, right? Seeing as I'm writing this review, I'm going to say the answer is NO.

Now, to be fair, this volume isn't perfect: Williams isn't writing for the trades, and so stories come and go at you without the sort of "complete experience" you normally would feel with a standard trade collection that would take you through a single narrative arc. Another problem present is that if you haven't been following the series up until now, it can at times leave you a little lost. In his defense, however, he puts up the early issues of the comics up as a webcomic here, for free, so he's doing his level best to get new people caught up and into the mix. Finally, Williams hasn't quite mastered the pacing and composition of action scenes, and this is definitely an action-heavy volume.

Where Williams succeeds is in the more fundamental areas of storytelling; he is constantly introducing new ideas into the series, while developing ones from previous volumes. In this volume alone, we have a school Career Day, an Alien Invasion, and some insight into the mystery behind the founding of the school. That also doesn't include the ongoing saga of series protagonist Tyler Marlocke, which goes through a couple of new twists in this installment. Of course, a fellow student is going through a trial of a very common and personal sort, and Williams is direct in showing the consequences of such a change. Unlike other kid-centric comic properties, the kids in this series behave like children, and so they lack the maturity necessary to understand the situations they are in.

However, where the book excels is character and humor. There really are some laugh-out loud moments and there is no shortage of fun and interesting characters. However, it is the last chapter which is the strongest, as it gives us a peek behind the mystery of the principal of PS238. It has long been assumed that he held onto a sinister secret. Well, we do find out the secret, but it is far more interesting, and more ambiguous, than we've been led to believe. Other characters get a chance to shine, including some favorites, and a few that I almost believed had been forgotten.

Overall, PS238 may not seem that innovative: its' old-fashioned approach to storytelling, and it's focus on developing long term plots and character arcs seem almost forgotten in this age. But, well, I can't think of a series I have more fun reading on a regular basis.

Oh, and if by any chance Aaron Williams reads this: Kent Allard? Well done, sir. Well done.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Night Physics

You know, it's almost pain ful to discuss this one. But I'll do my best.


The Picture above, here's why it wouldn't work, in short:

1) Fire consumes oxygen. Being in space, there isn't much of that to go around, unless you have some way of renewing it really really fast. Also, space stations tend to be a bit rich in oxygen, so fire would spread rapidly, destroying your space station and everything on it; including you.
2) Where does the smoke go? I mean, venting it into space means that you'd be exposing the fire to vaacuum, so it would extinguish, so that can't work. The only way this could work is if you had a separate "Smoke Storage" container that would occasionally open to space, creating a barrier between the fire and space.

Now, looking at the shot below, you see the Justice League deciding to leave bits of Red Tornado floating around in and around their orbiting space station. Aside from being slightly weird, this is also insanely dangerous. In order for something to be in what is called a Geo-Synchronous Orbit (approximatel 22,600 miles above the Earth, which is what the Justice League Satellite is in), means that it has a relative velocity of...about 22,000 mph. This would also be the velocity of Tornado's remains. What this means is that should another satelitte or space vehicle (say, the Space Shuttle) veer too close, it could be hit by, say, a glove, at several times the speed of a rifle bullet. Now, while this doesn't seem like it would be harmful, consider that a paint chip travelling at this velocity has been known to cause serious shuttle damage...and then think about what Red Tornado bits at multiple-Mach Velocity would do to some poor astronauts, and it really makes the Justice League look like complete Assholes.

This has been another proud installment of Friday Night Physics. enjoy and feel free to leave your comments.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tomorrow's Reviews, Today!

I know and you know we all spend a lot of time on the comic blogosphere. If you're like me, probably too much time, when you should be, I dunno, doing some work, reading, being with real people and such. If only we could save some time somehow.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I've solved this problem. Using my brilliant engineering knowledges, maths, and punching a wall (it works for some reason; don't ask why), I've been able to find my way onto the comic blogosphere...of the FUTURE! BEHOLD, THE REVIEWS OF TOMORROW!

Secret Invasion #8 (of 8) reviewed at Every Day is Like Wednesday

"...and so after 7 issues, plus tie-ins from all three Avengers 'Franchise' titles, you'd really feel like we should have a feel for what the point of this story was about. Yes, there is the prophecy, but a prophecy isn't really a story, and we never really get to see the internal mechanics of the Skrull empire and their collective psyche well enough to feel like we understand what is going on. But we don't, and so we get a lot of real mush about how sneaky and devious Nick Fury is and how he gets his final weapon into play to save the day, but it also sets up an even more disturbing new status quo. That's the real tragedy of Marvel: that it now takes 2/3 of a year to create a new "status quo" which will be undone in three months or less by the next "summer crossover"."

Bully the Little Stuffed Bull reviews Amazing Spider-Man 571

"This comic is OK. I mean, we are supposed to have funny Spidey, and it tickles my funny bone, but it doesn't go anywhere, and you always feel like Peter is just a loser."

Ray Tate reviews Superman and the Legion of Three Worlds

"This is wrong, wrong, wrong! Mr. Johns, if you are going to write the Legion, you must write them correctly. First, you must address the actions of the Khund War, and you simply should not, at all at all, write the Legion without the greatest Legionnaire of them all, the love of Brainiac 5's life, I speak of course of Kara Zor-El. To do this would be to write Buffy without Willow. It would be as if you are writing about the Fifth Doctor without including Tegan and Turla. This cannot stand, and you should be ashamed, ashamed..."

The Invincible Super-Blog revews Final Crisis 7(of 7):

"...I'm not sure it's as groundbreaking as we in the internet wished it could have been (although, when don't we wish that?), but it did have one saving grace: Batman kicking Darkseid in the face! Thank you, Mr. Morrison."

Ahbay of the Savage Critics reviews Iron Fist: Seven Capital Cities of Heaven HC

"Iron Fist is a strange breed: It's too slow to be Fight Manga, but it's too good to be among the dreary and plodding to count as one of Marvel's Superhero comics...."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Plot Devices that Need to Go Away #2

Normally, Monday night is very busy and I just make do with one of my "what if we lived in a comic universe" posters. However, I thought tonite would be good for the second installation in the series about comic book plot devices that need to go away.

Plot Devices that need to go Away #2:


Also Known As: Pervert Suits, Nimbo suits (Ninja + Bimbo, for those of you who wanted to know), Superhero Sex Bikinis, and Buttfloss outfits.

What is it?: Take a look at the pictures here pal. It's pretty obvious.

Why do The comic book companies do it?: The short answer is "Sex Sells". The long answer is....actually, no that's really about it. I mean, you could point to the stunted emotional maturity levels of most comic fans, writers, artists, and editorial, and that'd be a wonderful answer. But it wouldn't really be the truth. Oh, it might make you feel better, until you remember that we live in a world where Megan Fox stated in her interviews for Transformers that she was cast for her ability to look good in a belly shirt while running. It's not something strictly limited to comic book fans and is part of a larger tapestry of an oversexed society.

That said, I think the superhero comicbook medium does it take to ridiculous extremes, as seen here.

Recent offenders include but are not limited to: Every Image Heroine Ever, Ultimate Scarlet Witch, Mary Marvel, Huntress, Psylocke, Elektra, Ms. Marvel, Gammora, Every female character who had a costume re-design since 1988.

Patient Zero: Now, this is hard to determine, as some degree of titilation has been present since the beginning of the genre (Wonder Woman, anyone?), but in my opinion, we can trace the point where it went completely off the rails to one of two early offenders: The 70s costumes for the Legion of Superheroes, or and I think this is far more likely, Starfire from Teen Titans pictured below.

Why it has to go away: Look, I'm a straight guy and hey, I like sexy women just fine, but can we just admit that at some point, this became puerile, immature stupidity that makes all comic book fans look like mentally-addled manchildren? Nevermind the sheer impracticallity of the outfits, or the implied sexism, or sending bad ideas to kids. This crap makes all of us, from the top of the foodchain down to YOU, the person BUYING IT, look like just a little bit like a creepy pervert who stares too long in front of the lingerie mannequins at Sears. And I don't know about you, but I can think of lots of women in my real life that I think are pretty goddamn sexy without ever having seen them in a V-Thong and fishnet fetishwear.

Angles for Redemption of the Plot Device: None. Bury this already and put some clothes on!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Just some odds and ends

Sunday is generally a day I use for pure reflection. Just some things and some links:

-Kali's Webpage is always good of fun good things. You should check it out.

-Anyone got any feedback on the new Indy? Spoiler-free please. I'd just like to know.

-Watching The Magnificent Seven again, and it still surprises me that this movie got made in America. Yes, I know it's an adaptation of the Seven Samurai in Western form (it's in the opening credits and I'm not an idiot), but the core message of the movie, about destroying the romanticism of the western and the gunfighter, and showing the futility of that lifestyle as it approaches its nadir, is a real break from most classic American films (particularly Westerns). It just always manages to remind me that, oh yeah, they used to make movies with ambiguous endings, and trusted that the audience could deal with it.

-And on a positive note: ItsJustSomeRandomGuy is made of awesome.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Things I love about comics

Because sometimes I just don't show enough love, you know? So, here's somethings I just thing are super in comics:


(True Fact: the X-Men LOOOOVE it when Giant Killer Robots show up at their Doorstep)

GALACTUS (Still one of the top 10 greatest things ever created in comics)

Warren Ellis (when he's not working for Marvel):

Bad-Ass Fight Scenes!

The Evil Opposite of the Hero!

Tell me about what you love in your superhero comics.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Night Physics

OK, I'm really hoping to take a break from talking about Tony Stark after this one, because this is turning into an Iron Man Blog, and to be honest, I've never been THAT big a fan of the guy. However, so much of Iron Man is based on the concept of high-tech, so he's probably the best example to use for a lot of these things. At least for the moment (Anyone who wants to make requests for future Friday Night Physics topics, put it in the comments, and I promise to make a fair attempt. No biology please - we'll leave that to the experts).

Tonite We'll be discussing Tony Stark's heart assist device, and to make this easy to newcomers who might not want to know about Tony's long history of various armor-related health problems, we'll just stick with the "damaged heart" scenario and solution as depicted by the movie, ok?

So, as depicted in the film, sharpnel is either imbeded in or approaching the Left Ventricle of Tony's heart (It's never made clear to me, and I think the writers are trying to keep it deliberately vague). The Left Ventricle is the main blood pump to the rest of the human body, and as such, it is the strongest and most vital part of the heart. Now, in the movie, Yinsen makes a simple electromagnet (using iron and some wire in a coil configuration) and hooks it up to a car battery. Yinsen claims that the magnet will keep his heart beating, although how this works is really unclear. My guess here is that the magnet is cycling to act as an assist to the damaged ventricle muscle tissue by actually moving the the shrapnel. Which wouldn't be a bad idea in theory, except that since the metal fragments are embedded, each time the magnet pulls on them, it actually shreds more muscle tissue. If the fragments are just reaching the heart, then I'm not sure how the magnet "keeps his heart beating". Suffice to say, that the magnet probably just prevents decay, and so be it. And we won't discuss the "arc reactor" because, well, there's no such thing.

In real life, a damaged heart would normally be assisted with a transplant, or if a transplant wasn't immediately available, a Ventricular Assist Device (actually, this is my primary area of research) would be used. Now, the problems with this kind of a device are many; powering it, using it to match the heart rate at different levels of activity (Sleeping, standing up, sitting down, running, etc.) but the major ones are the formation of clotts and possiblity of infection. because the blood is going through an unnatural type of flow (and this is especially true of VADs that don't use pulsatile pumping), there is a high chance that the blood cells will be destroyed by the various stresses the device subjects it to, this cell death then triggers the mechanisms in the body that create blood clots, which then cause more strain on the heart, which sorta defeats the purpose of the device in the first place. Thus, patients with VADs are often on blood thinners, in addition to immunosuppressants (so the body doesn't reject the device), which then increases the risk of infection. So it's probably not the most elegant solution either, but the technology is advancing. We may not be able to get it to power hyper-sonic powered armor anytime soon though. Such is life.

And that's it. Enjoy and write in your suggestions for future Friday Night Physics!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pick the best caption!

Here's three different captions for the same image. Tell me which one you like best

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Which side would you REALLY want to be on?

Tonite's post is inspired by kali921. I highly suggest you go over to her blog and give her much hugs and thanks. And on with Tonite's Main Event: The Initiative Vs....the Nova Corps!

Ouch. Doesn't seem like a fair fight so far, does it? But, wait, I hear you say "Well, OK, the Initiative is a rotting corpse of failure, but hey, Tony Stark is way better than a dummy like Richard Ryder" Well, let's take a look at that a little closer, shall we?

OK, Tony seems to be doing well here with a couple of scantily clad non-descript young starlets, but some would say it's quality, not quantity that matters. Let's look at how Nova is doing...

The scanitly clad Green girl, in case you are wondering, is Gamorra, the deadliest assassin in the known universe. I think we can just move on to the final face off between these two, shall we?

That's it for tonite folks!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Belated Mother's Day tribute!

Because I actually spent Mother's day with my mom last weekend, I didn't do any kind of special blogpost or put up a poster. Well, here it is anyway!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review Devil's Cape

Tonight we'll look at Devil's Cape by Rob Rogers (whom has a very nice blog).

Disclaimer: While I used to read a bit of superhero prose stuff in my teens (mostly the stuff Marvel was producing as it had better stories than the comics at the time), I've always found that the superhero genre is hard to convey without the colorful visuals of the comics and screen. I mean, in much the same way that live action TV and movies have to take liberties with superhero costumes that an actor can actually use, superhero stuff in prose has to make a lot of other concessions in order to focus on the storytelling.

Thankfully, Rogers understood this from the outset, and the result is surprising for a (new) author; while there are some heavy expository sections that make it a bit of a drain to read, the rest is highly entertaining. Rogers' strongest achievement is creating a setting that is reminescent of Gotham, New Orleans (a clear inspiration) and the Mos Eisley Spaceport from Star Wars, and has amplified the corruption and vice to their (super)natural extremes. Outside of James Robinson's Starman run, I've never seen this much use of the setting as a context for a superhero story. Rogers spends a lot of time getting you to know the city; you can feel the sweltering heat of the city and smell the garbage rotting in the streets as apathetic cops drive along, knowing they are bought and paid for by a dozen levels of greed and evil. Devil's Cape isn't a place I'd want to visit, except by reading about it.

Another excellent choice by Rogers: he eschews analogues, when it would be easy to do so. There are no dark detectives whom have trained mind and body to perfection, no superhuman alien demigods or prankster acrobats or psychotic clowns. His characters, their powers and origins manages to seem fresh and new, despite hewing very close to classic mythological heroic archtypes. That's an impressive feat that I wish more comic writers would follow.

Where Rogers shows weakness in his work is that you never get a clear sense of motivation from any of the protagonists as to why they are doing what they are doing (the sole exception being Doctor Camelot and her search for revenge). Part of this is due to the large cast he uses to paint the canvas of the setting, and part of it is likely because of the moral grey area inherent to the nature of the setting (I find it no surprise that the only character with a clear cut motivation is not a native of Devil's Cape). This, and some rather oppressive wording during the middle of the book (where Rogers moves from simple set up of the city to explaining the world it inhabits and the various superbeings) are fairly minor glitches in what is overall a very light and enjoyable read. Pick it up, give it a try, and hope that we get more from him soon.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Watchmen Posters!

It's going to be a long work-filled weekend for me, so I'll try to make up for my lack of substance with a crapload of posters. Tonight's theme: WATCHMEN. These are probably the only Watchmen posters I will ever do, simply because I don't feel that anything from the actual comic requires additional commentary. Movie images, however, as SOOOO fair game. Enjoy.