Friday, November 18, 2011

All Good Things...

Welcome to Comical-Musings; it is good to see you again. As many of you may have noticed, I have not created any blogs in a while. For those who were concerned, thanks. For those who didn't notice, it's ok. For a few reasons, I have made the decision to scale back/step away from blogging on this medium that I am so passionate about. These reasons are well founded and I hope that through understanding them, you will be able to comprehend my exit.
The first reason that I have stepped away is that I recently realized that this blog was doing very little to impact the comic book industry as I hoped that it would. As many of you know, I listen to copious amounts of podcasts and am a true fan of their product. The problem with that is that I started listening at podcast number 1. At that time, the Ifanboys were not that famous and their little website was a start up on the verge of boom or bust. Now they are a strong, highly regarded, multimedia source for trusted opinions. I am not suggesting that they have lost any of their former passion, all I am suggesting is that it looked easy as I was listening to podcasts 1-100. When you step back and observe the fact that they are on episode 300-something, you realize that this revolution that I am trying to be a part of happened 6 years ago. Sure episodes 1-100 look easy, but these guys have skins on the wall and have sustained being entertaining for years. Most of what I do here ends up looking like it is copied from them because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess. The question I keep asking myself is, "If is already an informed and persuasive voice for comics, they are providing me joy as a spectator, and I am not trying to compete with them, what is the function of this work?" Most of you will not read a comic book unless I place it in your hands and the only ones that you will consider are whatever bastardized movie property has been ripped from the pages recently. Despite all of that criticism, you might sweetly say, "But Scott, it is your creative output. It's a hobby for you."
The second reason for my absence and loss of the dream is that I don't technically need another creative outlet. I am a Youth Pastor at Redemption Church in Plano, Tx and by nature of that responsibility, need to create lessons and creative arts things for that constantly. I also work for an established counselor's office with grand ambitions and they need my mind focused on Samaritan's Well. It has begun to make very little sense for me to waste creativity on anything that doesn't pay me or feed my soul. I have creative responsibilities to Pastor Kevin and my boss, Mark that could be expanded and I need not consistently waste brain power on this task.
The third reason for me walking away is that most of this blog's viewership has been people using Google Images to take pictures off of my Comical-Musings. These pictures are scanned onto the computer and I don't have licensing over them or anything, so that is probably not good. I did not create Comical-Musings as a warehouse for people to come take cool pictures from. If we get 29 viewers a day, chances are very good that 6 of them actually read the material with the picture rather than clicking "save as." This is pretty unacceptable and a complete departure from the point of my creative work.
So that is why I am hanging up my spurs. If it makes you feel better, it's not you, it's me. I have two growing little kids that need me to know how to go camping more than they need to know that The Vulture's real name is Adrian Toomes. I have youth group kids that I need to fight for with my time, not just the promotion of entertainment. I have God to honor with my words, not Spider-Man. I will still read comic books and probably will still have opinions about them that you and I can discuss (God help you if you wanna' talk comics with me), but will no longer use time and energy to present and honor them here.
The last part of this composition is to be a thank you note to those who played significant parts in the life of Comical-Musings. I really love and appreciate my wife for believing in me and encouraging me. She is a sweetie and her support has been pivotal throughout this journey. The Writer's Blok are my comrades in arms, writing content for our site. Things have gotten tough and busy over the last year for us. Responsibility, wives, kids, college, jobs; we really don't have much time for this anymore. I appreciate your help with Comical-Musings. Ellen B. was my first fan and is a good friend and mentor in blogging. Shelton M. was a great encouragement to me throughout comic book club and the conception of this blog. When I would get bummed and think that no one was reading, I would look up to my subscribers and I knew that Shelton would read it. Sarah C.'s excitement over the medium was another factor that spurred me on to create more than 100 posts. In a similar way, Lauryn H. was always incredibly complimentary to me about my writings and I knew that if I could coax a jock girl into reading comic books, then we could save the industry. Thanks to subscriber, Drew as he is the only person of my subscribers who I do not know. Shout out to a person who likes the site without knowing me. Chris Fluitt of the popular blog was always helping me to tweak and promote the content placed on the site and was the reason that we got anywhere with Stumbleupon. Thanks to you all.

So, as I end this post that many will not read, I want to say that:
1. I did what I wanted and we put out new content every three days for a couple of months and I am proud of that.
2. Comical-Musings will no longer be putting out new content for the time being. Call it quitting or sabbatical or hiatus or whatever you want. It may come back some time, but for the time being, it is finished.
3. Please continue to read comic books. They really are an under-appreciated medium for great storytelling.
4. For comic book news and entertainment, I recommend
5. Thanks for everything.

~ Scott Deaux ~

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Guild - For Anyone Who Knows What MMORPG Stands For!

I have made it pretty clear that I am a nerd and if, based on that, you were to guess that I play online games you would be right. I, in fact, have played World of Warcraft for many years. I take a break every once in a while but I consider myself an avid player. So when I found this online show called The Guild created by, written by and starring quite attractive yet still nerdy Felicia Day. Admittedly this is not a webshow for everyone but it should be. If you play MMORPGs or know someone show does, have a socially-anxious neurotic in your life, or enjoy obscure role playing humor The Guild is pretty darn funny. Now right now you might be wondering why you are reading about a webshow, that's not even animated, here on Comical Musings and I have that answer for you! It is because Dark Horse has put a series of comics that covers Codex's (Felicia Day's character) origin story. The best part is that this book is actually written by Felicia herself so the storyline has the same feel as the webshow. Honestly I could make this a Felicia Day fan boy post if I didn't reign it in so on to the book...
First and foremost the art is not as intense as the books I have been reviewing as of late but it's because it doesn't need to be, and shouldn't be, intense. It is whimsical and goofy and it is perfect. That is not to say this book isn't drawn with talent. In fact the truth is quite the opposite. The art in this book is more detailed than a lot of the mainstream titles that have folks raving over the art and the apparent simplicity of the style is quite deceiving. It is blatantly obvious that a lot of thought and love went in to Jim Rugg's art. He captures characters that already exist as actors and manages to bring in their facial expressions and postures in a way that a fan of the webshow will instantly identify the characters. I would imagine that working within an existing framework of real world actors and all their quirks and translating that to a comic isn't easy and Rugg pulls it off beautifully. Whether the panels are in-game or real life the art brings the right amount of pop the storyline. Not being familiar with Rugg's art I can honestly say that I hope I see more of it. He carries off just the right balance between foreground and background while letting the dialog carry the story. Some comics are told almost exclusively in their art, some in their dialog and still others maintain a pretty amazing balance. The Guild falls in the latter of those three categories.
As for the storyline we get watch the creation of Codex, an online persona, by Cyd as her life falls apart around her. Cyd is an interesting character even prior to creating Codex in the online game. She is depressed, not very good at social interaction and in therapy. Now what makes this character great is that in spite of all of that Felicia Day writes and plays her in a such a way that all her problems are believable but she is still funny. From her webcam journal entries, prescribed by her therapist, to her her interactions with her guild she is a character that is easy to like and one that makes you want to root for them. Usually characters with all the flaws that Cyd has are hard for me to watch much less read but the treatment given to the issues here is one that gives hope to the reader and the character without feeling all happy-happy-joy-joy. The rest of the characters in the book are amazing as well. If I had one complaint it would G√ľnther. I don't find his character all that believable and the revelation made later in the book seems out of place. However that is a minor complaint and should take away from the rest of the characters that have been developed for this story. You see this one contains characters you won't meet watching the webshow as well as ones you will and they are all well thought out and very well written but in the end this book is all about Cyd.
What we get to see here is Cyd's life fall pretty much completely apart. She loses her boyfriend, someone she tries to befriend at work, her job and more. While all this is happening we are treated to her webcam journal and therapy sessions while we watch her slip deeper in to the online world she discovers all the while justifying her pulling away from reality. While she is one of those characters that bring of their own problems on themselves (and who among us isn't) some of them just aren't her fault and we can feel genuinely sorry for her. The loss of her boyfriend is something you will cheer and possibly even the loss of her job when you see how it comes about. She is also a product of our society in so many ways. Even when she is justified, or thinks she is, her actions tend to backfire. Luckily she doesn't try to blame everyone around her and soldiers on. We don't get to see any real final resolution other than her really enjoying her game but that's because this book is a prequel to the webshow. So the order of business here is that you buy this book and then go watch the webshow. I can't really say this is Required Reading because I honestly think it is for a niche audience but if someone calling a nerd or geek makes you "Well, duh" then this is one for you without a doubt. And it's a lot of fun on top of that.

~ Romeo Sid Vicious ~

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mystery Men...Not The Ben Stiller Movie

I am a fan of the noir genre and to a larger degree the noir pulp genre. Two of my favorite series of books are: The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (his blog is awesome and you should add it to your reading list) and Nightside by Simon R. Green both of which could be easily considered noir pulp with the former being set in an alternate 1930's universe and the latter being a modern urban setting. So when I discovered that Marvel had produced a noir pulp title set in the 1930's I was pretty excited while at the same time my thoughts were tinged with trepidation because it is not easy to walk the line between producing well done pulp and falling off the line into complete and utter drek. Let me tell you that David Liss walked that line with the best of them.

That said I will get my two complaints out of the way first so they aren't the last thing you read before you go out and buy this series. Firstly, there aren't enough issues in this series. Liss handles the length with style, but I was left thinking that with so many super heroes being introduced, that we were kind of robbed of what could have been so many awesome back stories. Since there are only five issues in the series there just wasn't room. That ties in with my second complaint which is that the ending felt a little rushed but that doesn't take away from the overall storyline. It certainly doesn't ruin the story in any way. My hope is that some of these characters get their own books and we have a noir universe with a few titles that run for a while. Of course I haven't seen any plans like that from Marvel but a boy can dream.

So now that I am done whining about how short this series is let me make it perfectly clear that this series is well worth your time. If you have never ventured in to the pulp or noir genres, this series is a great place to start. It is set in the 1930's and the writing by Liss and art by Patrick Zircher really pull you into the time period. With the 1930's in full swing, we see the lack of technology available to modern heroes and we are exposed to blatant racism without apology along with a slightly different moral code. In short the world was different then and it is different in the same way when Liss writes about it. I think that the real strength of the series lies in its unapologetic depiction of the time period.

The storyline, without revealing too much, starts like any good pulp: with a murder. Over five issues The Operative, Achilles, The Revenant, The Surgeon and The Aviatrix investigate said murder and stumble on to a much bigger plot with deep implications for one of the heroes. Revelations are given to us, the readers, with precious little warning and nothing is ever as it seems. The original murder uncovers a series of kidnappings involving children that changes the direction of the story and gives it a darker feeling without crossing the line into territory best covered in the horror genre. All the while our heroes are assaulted by Liss's very believable and very easy to hate bad guys. Liss even manages to grab your heart strings and make you want to turn ahead to make sure the good guys are going to win because if they don't...

Intrigue and action are the order of the day from start to finish. With heroes that don't necessarily share our modern moral code, Gods of ages long past, and someone that is almost as much monster as he is hero, Liss juggles a relatively huge cast through twists and turns with ease. Zircher is right there to give us a window in to world that is as rich in background texture as it is in foreground character. Mystery Men lives up to the genre perfectly and is without a doubt going to be a classic. I mean: Men aspiring to Godhood, zepplins peppering the skies. and jetpacks for Pete's sake! How could you not love a comic book with jetpacks?

I know the comic book market is not a forgiving arena these days and Liss's closing question "The End?" begs to be answered with a resounding "No"! Liss's characters breathe new life in to the market and break the standard super hero molds expected from their genre. As I said earlier I really think Marvel could spin this into a nice noir universe and get some real traction from the genre. You all know by now that I love a tortured hero and I would do just about anything to see more of The Surgeon. I have to stop now before I give any more away because I want you to read these books. I mean go buy them now! This is Required Reading.

~ Romeo Sid Vicious ~

Thursday, November 3, 2011

When You Take On X-23, You Always Win

X-23 has sort of a unique timeline when it comes to appearing in the Marvel Universe. Her first appearance was on the X-Men: Evolution animated series back in 2003 followed up by her print debut in NYX about a year later. Next came her origin story "Innocence Lost" along with appearances in New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men and X-Force. From the cartoon we know she is a clone of Wolverine and we get to see her powers on display in all of their gory glory in NYX but I think where she comes from is the best place to start talking about this rather gritty female character.

As an aside I should probably mention that female superheroes have never been on my list of favorites. It's not a sexist thing as I like heroines in the fantasy/sci-fi realm. I just have never found a female superhero that seemed to fit properly with her companions and surrounding. I personally discovered X-23 while reading everything connected with Wolverine Goes To Hell and found my first favorite female superhero. I should probably also mention my favorite comic books are not superhero based to begin with and I am fairly picky about reading books about male superheroes. A good example is that I still can't bring myself to care about all the death weighing on Scott's conscience due to X-Force and eventually the Schism story arc. So overall the abscence of female super heroes on my favorites list is most likely an artifact of there being very few on the list at all. Thanks for coming with me on that little introspective journey. I shall now reward you by actually writing about X-23 and the Innocence Lost story arc.

Written by Craig Kyle, who created X-23, with art by Billy Tan this 144 page trade tells the tale of a secrect organization attempting to recreate the Weapon X gene that produced Wolverine so as to have the perfect assasin for hire. The main antagonist is one Zander Rice whose father, Dale Rice, was killed during Wolverine's escape from the Weapon X project. When the reproduction of the gene proves impossible Sarah Kennedy suggests that she create an XX version of the gene as the Y chromosone seems to be the problem. Her idea is shot down but she continues on her own, against orders, and creates a viable clone without the Y chromosone. Volunteering to be the surrogate for this clone Sarah becomes the mother of X-23.

I will be honest the training portions of this book were hard to get through. From irridating the child in order to speed up the onset of her mutant abilities to the sheer psychological horrors described it was hard to stomach. As hard as those parts were to read through their necessity can't be denied as they explain her attitude and overall outlook as seen in other story arcs. I won't go in to details because I am trying my best to not write a complete and total spoiler here but suffice it to say this book deals with some issues that might be a little harsh for some folks, but does it in a way that doesn't detract from the storyline.

Through all of this, we really get to know X-23 and see who she is on the inside. While technically being a clone of Wolverine she is so much more than a female Wolverine and her genesis may well be even more traumatic that that of her father. The emotion that Craig Kyle puts in to this story is well complimented by Billy Tan's art who captures it all without being overdone or using cliched techniques to prop it up. Watching the emotional progression of X-23 from ruthless killer to her questioning orders and allowing herself emotion is gut wrenching and amazing at the same time. With some of the best parts of the story being Sarah's love for her daughter even though her daughter doesn't know who she is. Toss in the rebellion of both X-23's sensei and mother, the ultimate betrayal by Zander, and X-23's eventual escape and you end up with so much more than just a genesis story. When you turn the last page you will have finished a well told story that doesn't leave you feeling like something was missed. I think that may be the biggest selling point for me. Without closing off her story Kyle wraps up this arc neatly without making it feel contrived. He handles the intrigue very well and doesn't drop any balls on tieing up the loose ends.

In conclusion this is a pretty amazing story and one that I highly reccomend while at the same time giving fair warning to those with weaker constitutions. X-23 has come a long way since this genesis story and is grounded in X-Men lore nowadays but you still need to read this book. It is worth your time and every cent you'll pay for it.

~ Romeo Sid Vicious ~