Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy xmas, everyone!

Of course, this is auto-posted, since I don't have to be up this early on xmas because I don't have kids. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Sadly, circumstances prevented me from doing an excessive amount of Halloween and horror-related posts this October, but you can celebrate the day by revisiting all of the previous posts right here! Hope you all have an awesome Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bad news, everyone!

Today is the day that Apex Predator was supposed to go on sale. So, where the hell is it? My PC has been having stability issues lately, crashing on me abruptly and freezing up with some regularity. A few days ago, it happened to slap me with the blue screen while I was putting some finishing touches on Apex Predator. Computer restart, and WHAM! File corrupted.


Thankfully, I'm not totally up shit creek here, since I had backed up the file on a flash drive. Unfortunately, I had not been as vigilant about that as I should have been, so that backup is a couple of months old, and needs a lot of work done to get it to the point the now-corrupted file was at. So, I guess you could say that I am up shit creek, but at least I've got a paddle.

So, the book is still coming. I'm not sure exactly how long it will take me to re-complete it, though I'd be shocked if it were to take me more than a month or so. Not sure if releasing it smack in the middle of the holiday season is the best timing, so I'll likely hold onto it for another month or two after I finish it before it actually goes on sale. I'll have to play that bit by ear, but have no fear; I'll keep you all posted. Hopefully, this won't affect the release of the book I have planned to release after Apex Predator. I've already done some preliminary work on it... but it's altogether too soon to start talking about it. all I'll say for now is that it is not another Grant Mercer novel. (More of those will be coming eventually, though.)

Anyway, apologies for the entire debacle. I gotta get back to work. That book's not gonna re-write itself!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 8-9-13

I'm hard at work on Apex Predator, which is eating up much of my time, so this week's post is just a few interesting odds and ends.

My man-crush Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson did an AMA focused on the upcoming revival of the Cosmos TV series!

Here's a cute story about a cat who inadvertently raised nearly $1000 for charity.

You can check out some old weird flash cards featuring toddler versions of DC Superheroes here. (Wonder woman's outfit is really disturbing on a one year-old!)

Finally, the Inauguration Station (character creator) for Saints Row 4 went live on Tuesday, so you can go ahead and get your character ready for when the game comes out on the 20th! You can even download your character from the third game and re-upload them for use in SR4 if you like. We've only got about a week and a half before it's here! If you're super excited for the game and also ridiculously rich, there's a special edition you can pre-order for $1 million. It actually sounds like a bargain!

That's all for this week!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 8-2-13

Has it been three weeks already? Time flies when you're splitting your time between writing a novel and generally goofing off.

Grant Morrison's epic seven-year run on Batman ended Wednesday with the release of the final issue of Batman Inc. (The image is the variant cover Morrison himself drew.) Yeah, it was awesome. I'm not about to give anything away, but I will say that the finale was more low-key than most readers were expecting, yet the book paid off emotionally in the best possible ways. There are echoes of every phase of Morrison's run, and Batman's overall history, and several enticing threads for other creators to follow up on if they so choose. The final page, in particular, makes me wish Morrison was planning to return in a year or two to follow up on some of them himself. Chris Burnham's art is gorgeous, of course. Morrison's run is already regarded as one of the finest ever featuring the character, and I think that, as time goes by, it will be recognized as the greatest Batman run of all time.

Here's a look at the recently-completed New Century Global Center in China, now the largest building in the world.

The Magnavox Oddyssey, released in 1972, was the world's first video game console. You can check out a cool photo gallery of an Odyssey unboxing here. While we're on the subject of video games, here's a cool collection of photos and info on most video game consoles that have existed. Even if you're well-acquainted with the history of video games, you're bound to see a couple you didn't know about.

Believe it or not, Morgan Freeman was once young.

A group of scientists and engineers working on the Mars Curiosity Rover mission did a very interesting AMA a few days ago. Guess who else did one? The Most Interesting Man in the World, bitches!

On that note, I'm outta here! Hopefully I'll be back in less than three weeks this time.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 7-12-13

Big news this week! In case you missed it, I announced Tuesday that my next book will be Apex Predator: A Grant Mercer novel! Check out that post for the details.

I finally picked up WWE '13 during Xbox Live's summer sale last week for $15, so I've been busy re-making characters in it when I haven't been working on Apex Predator. I only "upgrade" with this series every 2 or 3 years, so the changes are plentiful from the 2010 version I was accustomed to. The changes are mostly positive, although a few quirks in the character creator are annoying. If I come up with a way to capture decent gameplay videos without buying any new equipment, I'll post some videos in the coming weeks.

Here is a chronicle of the art created by a restaurant server who decided to do something special with order sheets. Pretty cool stuff.

Hold the mushrooms and onions, please.

We have AMAs by David X. Cohen (the head writer of Futurama) and John Malkovich, so get reading!

That's it for this week; I've gotta get back to writing!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My next book will be APEX PREDATOR: A Grant Mercer Novel

One of the most popular stories in Nightmare Escapade: A Horror Anthology was the tale that introduced Grant Mercer, a former detective whose search for a missing child takes a horrific turn when he stumbles upon the underworld of supernatural beings who are pulling everyone's strings from behind the scenes. Without spoiling things for those of you who have not yet read the story, things take some unexpected twists and turns, and by the end, the breakout character of the book was born. Almost every reader who gave me feedback on the book began with how much they enjoyed that particular story, and wanted to see what happened next.

It was my plan all along to launch Grant into his own series of novels, so naturally, I'm very happy that readers responded so well to his introductory story. In September, Apex Predator: A Grant Mercer Novel will pick up right where that story ended, delving into the supernatural empire that we've only glimpsed. Grant has only dipped his toe into the water; in Apex Predator, he gets tossed right into the deep end!

As a bonus, the story from Nightmare Escapade that introduced Grant will be included, so new readers won't have to buy another book to "catch up." With that inclusion, it seemed appropriate for that story to lend its name to the novel, since it picks up immediately following those events. Apex Predator is only two short months away. For now, enjoy the debut of the cover art, and give Nightmare Escapade another read to help you prepare!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 6-28-13

My first book is now available for the Nook, Kobo, and Apple devices, as well as the Kindle. You can download it here, and you'll receive a zip file containing Nightmare Escapade in mobi, epub, and pdf formats, so you'll be able to read it on pretty much any device. Go check it out, and spread the word!

Weird Al did an AMA yesterday! Go check it out, some good stuff in there.

There have been plenty of "I found a sealed safe!" posts on Reddit, but here's a photo album from someone who actually followed up, opened it, and photographed the contents!

That's it for this week! Just haven't had the time to put together a larger post this week, between working on my next book and the usual stuff. (Although, I've been working on it long enough that it probably is part of "the usual stuff" at this point.) Anyway, everyone enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you next week!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 6-21-13

What a week! Wednesday brought the stunning news that Microsoft has done a complete 180 on the mandatory online check-in and the used game restrictions that were recently announced for the upcoming Xbox One console. (Although the internet was quick to claim some sort of victory, we can be pretty damn sure the move is motivated by Microsoft's realization that it would wind up making far less money if it dug in its heels and stuck with the various restrictions. The outcry was loud and violent enough that it was an unmistakable conclusion.)
Personally, I thought the announced policies were restrictive enough that they partly led to my decision to preorder a PS4 rather than an Xbone, but the outcry was taken to rather ridiculous levels. Reddit, in particular, seemed extremely hypocritical; Valve's Steam platform is absolutely adored, and Valve can do no wrong, but when Microsoft tried to implement something very damn close to Steam's system, they were crucified for it. I think the restrictions were a bad idea, but I don't like them on Steam, either. Of course, it must be noted that Steam also brings many positive features to the table along with the drawbacks, and Microsoft was bringing the negative aspects of the service with no evidence that the good stuff would be included with them. People do not like being told how they can buy their games and what they can do with them, and if you're gonna try doing that, you'd damn well better have some great bonuses to make up for that lack of freedom. Microsoft may well have delivered on that, but there was no indication that they would, and they paid the price. Under the circumstances, backing down was far and away the best option.
If you're still undecided about which next-gen console you want, here's a handy graphic with direct comparisons in pretty much every category.

Here is a fun photo gallery chronicling a group of people decorating an old van with Sharpies.

Stephen King did an AMA, so you might wanna check that out.

Finally, I've gotten pretty sick of some of the complaints about Man of Steel, the thoroughly awesome Superman movie that debuted last week. (Maybe you've heard of it.)  No movie is flawless, of course, and I have no issue with people who just didn't dig the movie. However, some of the incessant gripes are downright ridiculous, even by the standard of whining we've come to expect from the internet whenever a comic-based movie is made. Spoilers lie ahead, so highlight the following if you want to keep reading: "Superman DOES NOT KILL" has become the mantra for a great many people in the past week. To them I say, "Oh, is that so?" That looks an awful lot like Superman executing three super-powered criminals to me! Oh, and one of them is General Zod, the very same dude who Superman is forced to kill in Man of Steel! This is from 1988's Superman #22. Not a hoax, not an imaginary story! It also bears mention that the beloved Christopher Reeve version of Superman also killed Zod in Superman 2. I've never heard anyone go apeshit over that, and Superman was far more callous about it, and didn't show a shred of remorse. Look, the movie has its flaws, and not everyone is gonna like it. But c'mon, don't try to bash the movie based on something as spurious as this. People love to claim fictional characters as their own in some way based on their personal ideal of the character-- and surprise, surprise, that nearly always just happens to be the version they first encountered when they were children-- and deem anything that sways from that ideal just plain wrong. If someone doesn't like the movie, that is just fine, but they should at least try to judge the movie on its own merits, without dragging their own personal baggage into it as if the director should have hired them as a consultant for the project. I don't normally get so annoyed about people on the internet disliking something, but I've encountered this several times daily since last Friday, and I had to have my say.

That's it for this week!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 6-14-13

I'm taking a break from working on my next book for this week's post, so it'll be a pretty short one.

We saw Man of Steel last night, and it is pretty awesome. Performances are fantastic across the board, Hans Zimmer's score is amazing, and WETA continues its streak as the best digital effects studio in the business. Russell Crowe is a standout, bringing so much pathos and dignity to Jor-El. I was very pleased that he has so much screen time. There is no post-credits scene, however, so don't bother waiting. I recommend the movie highly, so make a point of going to see it this weekend. Man of Steel is the Superman movie we've all been waiting for.

Much of this week has been consumed watching all the videos from E3, where Microsoft was the victim of a sound kick in the nuts by Sony. I was more interested in seeing what Microsoft brought to the table, since we'd seen little of the games that are on the way for the Xbox One. Micrsoft did have a very strong presentation, showing off tons of exclusives. Most of them are interesting, and a few look truly awesome.
Still, the specter of the announcements that the Xbox One will require you to check in online once a day to play your games, and that publishers can disable the option or charge a fee to play used games cast a pall over everything. When the $500 price tag was revealed, it didn't help matters.

Enter Sony. After a decent conference, they dropped a sequence of bombshells: The PS4 requires no internet check-in. Ever. The PS4 has no restrictions on used games. On top of all that, the retail price is $399, a full hundred dollar less than the Xbox One. Without being burdened by an expensive new Kinect, Sony is able to undercut the Xbox One significantly.

The upshot of all this is that the PS4 has been enjoying a massive surge in popularity, and many longtime Xbox loyalists are even jumping ship. Personally, I've gone with the Xbox for the past two console generations, but I'm no fanboy with some misguided sense of company loyalty. I always evaluate what is available and go with what fits me best. That was the Xbox the last two times around, but not this time. Sony got pretty arrogant and made some bad decisions with the PS3, but they've learned from those mistakes, and built a new console that is exactly what their customers want. Meanwhile, it seems that Microsoft has only been interested in building the console they want.

Microsoft is not doing anything with their new console that Valve hasn't been doing for years with their Steam platform, but until they demonstrate that these restrictions will also bring the positive aspects of Steam as well as the negatives, I won't go near it. I preordered a PS4, and I'm looking forward to it.

A couple of quick Reddit links: Bill Nye did an AMA, and so did Hans Zimmer.

That's it for this week! There should be a new Trash Rant next week, and hopefully some news about the new book.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Nightmare Escapade, my first book, is free until June 13!

For the next five days, you can download Nightmare Escapade: A Horror Anthology for free! Get it here! If you don't have a Kindle, Amazon has free Kindle apps for pretty much any device from a PC to an Ipod, so if you're reading this page, there's an app that will let you read the book. Once you've read it, taking a few minutes to leave an honest review will be much appreciated.
Now, back to work on my next book...

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 5-31-13

A short column this week, and it's largely Batman-related. That's hardly a bad thing though, right?

Forgot to include this in last week's ramblings, so here it is now! If you haven't seen this, make sure you're sitting down and that you have the next ten minutes free, because you'll probably wanna watch it again as soon as it's done.
Pretty goddamn awesome, right? I love the bulky armor Batman is wearing, as it looks as if it will naturally evolve into the sleek, streamlined armor we had in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. I love the inclusion of Black Mask as the (apparently) main antagonist. He's one of those C-listers I've always really liked that doesn't get used too often. We've had references to him in both previous Arkham games, so that makes it extra cool to see him take center stage. As for Deadshot, another favorite of mine, we can't see too much of his costume here, and we don't know if this is his default look for the game anyway, but it has to be an improvement over his Arkham City costume. That was the only redesign in that game that was truly awful.
Of course, there's also the issue of the voice cast. It's been confirmed that Kevin Conroy, who personifies Batman more than anyone else at this point, is not the voice of the Dark Knight in Origins. Mark Hammill won't be reprising his role as the Joker, either, but at least we were prepared for that with his insistence that he was done with the character after he completed his work on Arkham City. (Of course, we all still hope he can be lured back from time to time.) We have yet to hear what the characters will sound like in the game; hopefully all will be well, but however good it turns out, Conroy and Hammill will be missed. At least we can take consolation in the knowledge that Conroy is returning as Batman in the all-but-confirmed sequel to Arkham City that Asylum/City developers Rocksteady are working on.

Justice League of America #4 was released Wednesday, and it ended on a hell of a cliffhanger. Highlight if you want to read the spoiler: After being caught snooping around in the headquarters of the Secret Society, Catwoman was killed, shot in the head at point-blank range. It's possible it could be a fake-out, but if so, it's a damn convincing one. The whole deal was as unambiguous as it gets in superhero comics. You can see the pages in question here. It was a solid issue as usual, although the art is still the weakest point. Finch's art, which I normally find murky and just plain ugly, has looked very rushed since this series began. Brett Booth fills in for this issue, and while I'm not a fan of his work, it is an improvement. Matt Kindt's backup stories starring the Martian Manhunter remain the best part of the book.

This is a fantastic cover of A-Ha's sappy classic Take On Me that I overheard during an interminable visit to the mall a few weeks back. I've always liked the music of Sara Bareilles whenever I've heard it in the past, but I'd never come across this one before.

The trailer for Machete Kills has arrived, and it looks like they're doing their damnedest to top the awesomely outrageous Machete.
This looks so amazing that I'm not sure I'll make it out alive.

Batman Noir: Eduardo Risso was released Wednesday(although Amazon won't have it for a few more days). This book reprints so much excellent material that it's nearly criminal. The star attractions are probably Broken City and Batman: Knight of Vengeance, both of which are collaborations with Risso's 100 Bullets partner in crime Brian Azzarello. Broken City followed the far more hyped bloated and overrated mess Hush, and is far superior in every way. It's never attained the popularity and regard it deserves, so I hope it gets a higher profile as a result of its inclusion in this new collection. Knight of Vengeance, of course, is the Flashpoint tie-in that was easily the best thing about that event. I really wish it was an ongoing series set on that world, continuity be damned. There's other great material here, of course, including Batman/Deathblow: After the Fires, the excellent Batman strip from the brilliant Wednesday Comics, and a nice little Batman Black & White tale. This is one of the handful of collections I've been looking forward to all year-- thankfully it actually was released, thank you very fucking much for cancelling the paperback editions of the Starman Omnibus, DC--  and you can bet your ass I'll be getting my hands on it as soon as finances allow. It gets my highest possible recommendation, so grab it if you're the slightest bit interested.

That does it for this week!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trash Rant: Z Comm #2- Killpoint

Situation: Hopeless. Solution: Z Comm!
Radical terrorists were plotting the ultimate coup. Their target: the mass annihilation of free world leaders at a summit conference in Venice. Their goal: the establishment of a global dictatorship conceived in blood and dedicated to the enslavement of mankind. Their first mistake: thinking the Z-Command would not interfere. Their last mistake: their first. 

With that rather oddly-written description, we're off to delve into one of the most demented books I've ever read. Killpoint, the second novel in the four-novel Z Comm series, is credited to David Maning, a pseudonym for David Alexander. (I see that I have a book from the Alexander-penned Phoenix series on my trashy adventure novel shelf, so it'll be interesting to see if it measures up to the blood-splattered insanity of Killpoint.)  Z-Comm is a kind of grindhouse GI Joe, featuring characters from various branches of the military sporting often-goofy names tackling various terrorist threats, but with a tone that is decidedly geared toward exploitation. In other words, this book is crammed full of batshit insanity. After I read a passage in which a trio of terrorists shot a hooker to death while fisting her, I had to put the book down for a little while and wonder exactly what the hell I'd gotten myself into. If you like your crazy-ass novels lurid as hell, you need look no further than the Z Comm series!

The Z Comm members are team leader Logan Cage, martial artist Sam Proffitt, professional big mean bastard "Bear" MacBeth, expert thief Harry Zabriske, and obligatory tough, uber-sexy female Domino Black. It bears mention that MacBeth is frequently described as bald throughout the novel, yet none of the team members are bald on the cover art; likewise, Domino is wearing an eye patch on the cover, yet there is no mention of this anywhere in the novel. The team is up against the middle-eastern terrorist group of the man known as the Vulture, whose goal is to blow up Venice during a peace meeting attended by the President of the US and the Soviet Premier. But basically, the entire book consists of scene after scene of terrorists massacring large crowds of people in various horrible ways, followed up by Z Comm killing lots of the terrorists in turn.

The Vulture is one nasty bastard. He and his henchmen, who are frequently referred to as "camel humpers," "scum sheiks," and "terror guys," rain violent, bloody death on large groups of people again and again throughout the novel. Seriously, people die by the goddamn hundreds in this book. So many people die that it barely matters that the Z Comm team technically accomplishes their mission, as there must have been all of 30 people left alive in Italy by that time.

A few choice scenes involve Italian mafioso Ugliano. The Z Comm teams busts in on him while he is busy getting it on with a transsexual, and proceeds to interrogate him. When he returns to his house with intent to evict the Vulture from the premises, Vulchy turns the tables; while his men restrain Ugliano, Vulture slits a lamb's throat, and the blood washes over Ugliano. Alexander is sure to inform us that the blood somehow fills Ugliano's asshole. I don't know how the hell that works, and I'm sure I don't wanna find out.

The writing is no better than you'd expect, but it does keep the novel moving at a good clip, even through all the page-filling passages describing the countryside and the weapons the characters use. Alexander's terrorists are complete caricatures, but he does capture the mindset of absolute fanaticism quite well.

A few choice quotes:
"May you swim for eternity in flaming lakes of diarrhea!" - a random "terror guy"
Bear knew he stuck out in the Plaza of the Crazies like a hard-on in a room full of nuns. 
"Shake your shit and get on the tit!" -Cage, for no discernible reason

As a bonus, here is the full cover art, revealed in all its glory when you open the front cover flap.

HOLYSHITJESUSFUCK What the hell is wrong with that guy?!?!!?

Just look at him!!!!

I can't possibly follow that up. Can the next book possibly match the fever dream that is Killpoint? Find out next time!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 5-24-13

Regular readers probably noticed there was no column last week; I was absorbed in the important work of watching cartoons, and it just plain slipped my mind. (I did warn that this column was "weekly-ish" at its inception, so no griping!) There'll be a couple of topics covered from last week to make up for it, so let's get rollin'!

DC's solicits for August revealed the latest round of cancellations, including such beloved series as Demon Knights, Dial H, Threshold, and Legion of Super-Heroes. DK is the one that really hurts, as it's been one my favorite books since DC's relaunch. It's a book that occupies a pretty unique niche, and it's a damn shame to see it go. Dial H, despite its critical acclaim, is a book that never really won me over. The only time it's been as good as it wants to be is the #0 issue, but I've stuck with it because I can feel how ambitious it is, and that still counts for something in my book. It never really "wows" me, but it's trying oh so hard. I'll be interested in checking out whatever China Melville does next. I've been enjoying Threshold, largely because it shines a spotlight onto a little-seen part of the DCU. I'm not surprised by its cancellation, as it is one of those  books I suspect was always intended to be an eight-issue series, just not announced as such to avoid the lower sales miniseries usually get. I've never been able to get interested in LOSH, so I won't miss it one bit. It's one of those series that DC seems hell-bent on publishing no matter what, so I'm sure it will return in some form before the year is over.
Of course, this opens up more slots for new series. With the all-but-confirmed Villains Month looming in September, we can surely look forward to seeing a few of these new series previewed in the specials focusing on whichever villains are specific to each book. Shazam/Black Adam is virtually a lock at this point, and I'd be surprised if we didn't get a Question series, since the other two members of the "Trinity of Sin" have their own series already. Beyond that, there are a ton of rumors, but nothing too substantial. Whatever happens, it's sure to be interesting.

The Xbox One was revealed Tuesday, and I was watching on Xbox Live. While I think Sony did a better job with their announcement event overall, the Xbox One is much more interesting to me than the PS4. I've never been too enamored of the Kinect, but the newest version of it looks simply amazing. I doubt I'll be able to afford to get the new Xbox when it's released, but hopefully I'll be able to snag one before it's been out too long. Microsoft would have to do something pretty stupid at this point to make me not want one(the rumored used game restriction might do it, but let's face it: all it is right now is a rumor).

An era ended when Green Lantern #20 was released Wednesday, capping off the epic nine-year run of Geoff Johns. I've been there from the beginning(and before, as I'd been buying the GL series for years prior to Rebirth), through all the ups and downs. The quality dipped a bit with the War of the Green Lanterns crossover, and the recent Rise of the Third Army and Wrath of the First Lantern were decidedly weak. For all of that, the entire run has been a hell of a thrill ride, and easily ranks among my all-time favorites. GL #20 is a fantastic sendoff. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give Johns is that his GL run was so good that it took a series featuring a character I absolutely loathe-- Jordan-- and made it one of my favorite books each and every month. It's some damn fine work that can make you love a book that stars a character you hate. I'm looking forward to seeing where the new teams take the books, but they have a hell of an act to follow. (I'm also happy that the excellent Doug Mahnke is joining Johns on Justice League of America, but that's a little off-topic.)

Gillian Anderson did an AMA on Reddit, so go check that out.

In still more comics news, here's a fun interview with Masters of the Universe writer Keith Giffen about the upcoming Masters of the Universe vs. DC Universe series. A standout excerpt:
"I talked to [DC Comics co-publisher Dan] DiDio, he said, "I don't care if you cut off Wonder Woman's head. It's not in continuity." And I said, "Yes." Because I wanted to know how much I could push DC because I wanted to have this very specific scene. I wanted a scene with He-Man and Teela and while He-Man and Batman are talking, Teela is wandering around looking at the glass cases full of Robin suits and at one point she walks up to He-Man and says, "Yeah, we have to get out of here. I think he kills kids." [Laughs] And I was told: "Sure. Put it in."
This book is gonna be so awesome. Giffen's doing good work on the MOTU comics, and you should all give the current series a shot. It's not a big nostalgia wank.

The season finale of Arrow aired last week, and the season definitely ended on a high note. I was cautiously optimistic about this series when it debuted last fall, and it was just okay at first. Thankfully, it improved steadily, and I thoroughly enjoyed most of the season. I never liked Smallville, but this show is honestly better in every way. I'm not down with every creative decision that's been made in the show, but on the whole, it's a good series, and it ended its first season with one of its best episodes. I'm really looking forward to its return.

That'll do it for today; see you Wednesday for another Trash Rant!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Trash Rant: Rig Warrior

I'll tell ya what, I was sold on this one the moment I saw the cover.

"Barry straightened and looked around him. No witnesses. Good. The dimly lit parking area was void of human life. Not counting the shitheads on the asphalt. And Barry didn't count them as human." Meet our protagonist, Barry Rivers, a.k.a. Dog. No, really! His CB handle is Dog. Rig Warrior is the work of prolific author William W. Johnstone, no stranger to action novels. Barry Rivers-- a Vietnam vet, as required by the law of men's adventure novels-- is a weapons salesman with a thriving business who enjoys kicking the shit out of random street punks whenever the opportunity arises. Barry gets wind of the trouble his father, Big Joe, is having down in New Orleans with the Mafia trying to take over his trucking business. Barry heads down to deal with the situation, and it quickly becomes clear that the whole mess is far bigger and nastier than anyone imagined.

The story eventually encompasses a shady government program that is performing horrific experiments on Vietnam veterans who suffer from PTSD, along with illegal Mexican immigrants of all ages, homeless people, and pets for good measure. This book really wants us to hate scientists, as the horror of these experiments is repeatedly hammered into the reader, and we're reminded that it's all for the benefit of science. Apparently all scientists are evil sadists who enjoy performing horrible acts on people and animals. Who knew? On top of that, the dead bodies are used to smuggle cocaine once the eeeeeevil scientists are done with them. Even further on top of that, Dog and his loyal truckers are being set up to take the fall! And even higher up, on the tippy top of that, the man behind it all is one of the people Dog trusts most!

This novel functions largely as an origin story, setting up a series centering on Dog and his dog, Dog. That's right, vigilante trucker Dog has a dog named Dog. You can't make this stuff up! (Well, uh, I guess you can, but it's pretty damn goofy.) The main plot is abruptly abandoned near the novel's end, and the new status quo is established. The pair of Dogs drive off into the sunset, armed to the teeth, looking for punks and thugs to snuff out.

Barry/Dog is a typical adventure novel protagonist; he's tough, seems to secrete a musk that causes all women in his immediate vicinity to shuck their undergarments, and as mentioned, he's a Vietnam vet. We're reminded often of his "Cajun temper," and he despises all lawyers, even though his most trusted friend is-- any guesses?-- his lawyer. Naturally, he despises the criminal justice system, and we are reminded every couple of pages that the laws exist to protect the criminals, not the innocent. Here's a nice quote to that effect, when we discover that the truckers will carry their illegally owned firearms no matter what: "As should be the case for any taxpaying, normally law-abiding citizen who knows the law is slanted toward the criminal and against them." We're frequently reminded that it's all the fault of all the liberal bureaucrats in the government, those criminal-loving, pencil-pushing dickheads!

Barry is no slouch with the ladies either, of course. We're told that he has several regular lady friends in his city of residence, including Linda, who works for the Treasury. When Barry hosts her for dinner, it doesn't take long for her to succumb to Dog's irresistible charms: "The dinner had been very good, and dessert was even better; took two to consummate it." Whew, anyone else all hot and bothered after reading such masterful innuendo? Then there is Kate, who is described as "an angel with a garbage can for a mouth." Kate drives for Big Joe's trucking company, and don'tcha know that all the other truckers-- with handles such as Beer Butt and Panty Snatcher-- are always trying to get into her pants to no avail, but she just can't resist instantly falling for Dog! The two of them actually get married, however, which is definitely a bit surprising in a novel of this genre.

Rig Warrior isn't particularly well-written. Sentence fragments are often presented as if they are full sentences, sometimes even as an entire paragraph all on their own. There are also several instances where Johnstone just flat-out used the wrong damn word; my favorite is "Something he merely suspicioned?" There are the expected typos, as well. These are things any halfway decent editor should have caught. For all of that, Johnstone keeps the narrative moving at a rapid pace, so the reader never really has a chance to get too hung up on the book's flaws. The Rig Warrior series apparently only ran for two more installments, and I'll try to get my hands on them to see if they surpass this introductory novel, which manages to entertain despite all its shortcomings.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 5-10-13

Happy Whacking Day, everyone! The month-long Whacking Day event in the Simpsons: Tapped Out game has ended, but today is the actual date of the holiday. Speaking of the game, how did everyone do? I finished getting all the prizes a week or so ago, and managed to get the final Whack Box Wednesday night, just under the wire. (For those of you who don't know about the Whack Boxes, they're no big deal. Once you got the final Whacking Day prize, you won a Whack Box for every 1,000 snakes you whacked after that. You either got money or up to three donuts, and the money, obviously, was far more common. I got a total of four donuts out of the ten Whack Boxes.)  It's possible that there will be something special in the game today, but as I'm writing this section of the post early Friday morning, it hasn't happened yet!
Edit: Of course, soon after this posted and I opened the game again, I saw that the level 29 update had arrived. Additonally, Whacking Day has been extended until the 16th! Good news for those who still don't have all of the prizes. Get back to whacking!

There's been a lot of grumbling around the 'net over DC's announcement that He-Man will be getting a new costume in their Masters of the Universe comic this summer. (I find the Ed Benes art far more disagreeable than the new costume, but whatever.) Much of the dismay is directed at He-Man's swanky new pants. I've seen a ton of bitching, mostly by people who, by their own admission, don't even read the comic. There have been a couple of valid points made, but everyone seems to have forgotten a few things:
1. This is not permanent.
2. This is not the first time He-Man has worn pants. The character will miraculously survive.
3.  The costume is an updated version of the classic Battle Armor He-Man, so it actually has a basis in classic MOTU lore. (Yeah, the old BA He-Man toy didn't have pants, but the design is the obvious basis for the new costume.)
4. The whole thing is stirring up some interest in the MOTU comic, which is a good thing, since it's a pretty good comic that has been unjustly ignored, for the most part.
5. This "controversy" is pretty dumb, even by internet argument standards.
Everyone just needs to take a few deep breaths and relax. Everything is gonna be okay(well, as okay as things ever are). And for the people I've seen complain that the new design is a sign that DC is getting ready to integrate MOTU into the main DCU, and that we'll see He-Man on the Justice League before the year is out, I say that I'd be thrilled by that, honestly. I seriously doubt that's gonna happen, but I'd love it if it did.
Edit: And now, this news has broken. Masters of the Universe vs. DC Universe kicks off in August! I really thought this was too much to hope for, but it's happening! C'mon, DC, put Teela or He-Man on the Justice League when this is over!

Here is a novel from 2006 that features WWE wrestlers working as secret agents for the government. It sounds so awful that it has to be great! I have no idea how it existed for this long without me hearing about it.

Free Comic Book Day was a resounding success, and our local shop was much busier than we've ever seen it. We arrived at about the same time we did for last year's FCBD, and the store was at least twice as crowded! It's great to see it grow bigger each year. I picked up most of the free comics I wanted, and snagged the Sergio Aragones variant cover for Justice League #19 for $3! I normally can't manage to give a damn about variant covers, but this one was a must-have. Lunch at one of downtown Hattiesburg's great restaurants followed, then visits to a couple of the thrift stores I enjoy diving into so much. I picked up some nice fodder for future Trash Rants, so consider this your warning. ;)

After all that, we went to see Iron Man 3. While I am sure there are many hardcore Iron Man fans who are royally pissed about the big reveal, I thought it was a fun movie overall. It had the requisite plot holes and shortcomings that you just have to ignore in the name of enjoying most action movies(most movies in general, really), but there was one in particular that was so huge that it just bugged the hell out of me. This is gonna involve a spoiler, so highlight the text if you wanna keep reading. Tony had dozens of fully functional suits of Iron Man armor ready to go at a moment's notice, so why, exactly, did he wait to use any of them until the ned of the movie? There were several times where he was well and truly fucked, not to mention the times other people were as well, and he couldn't be bothered to summon a suit of armor. Obviously, the reason he didn't was plot convenience. It wouldn't have taken much- just a line to explain why he didn't or couldn't summon the armors earlier than he did-- to smooth the hole thing over. Like I said, I'm accustomed to ignoring plot holes as long as a movie is fun and generally well-made, but this one really stuck in my craw. 
All that aside, it was a fun movie that didn't measure up to the first IM film. Regarding all the rumors that RDJ may not return to the role over payment disputes, Marvel/Disney need to just give him whatever he wants to continue. Most of the other roles can be recast without too much fuss, but they need RDJ to be Tony Stark for as long as he is willing to do it. The first Iron Man movie took a character who was a solid B-lister, not to mention a complete unknown outside of comics readers, and made him a huge star and a solid A-lister practically overnight. So much of that is due to RDJ's performance and charisma, and the movies-- and their profits-- will take a huge hit if and when he departs. Marvel Studios needs him far more than he needs it. That said, the rest of the cast and crew are due some serious raises, with the kind of insane profits these movies are making. It's disgusting that co-stars such as Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner made so little for The Avengers when RDJ and the studio is raking in so much.

Anyway, rant over for now. I've still got a good bit of stuff to move back in, so I'm out for today.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Free Comic Book Day Edition!

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, which is pretty self-explanatory. For those of you who have never participated, however, it may be helpful to have a few of the details clarified. Generally, FCBD goes something like this: You enter your local comic shop-- if you're unsure where the nearest one is, you can find out right here-- and the FCBD comics are displayed on a table or shelf, usually separate from the rest of the merchandise. Some shops place a limit on how many free books you can choose, while some let you grab as many as you like; it's all up to the owners of each store. Whatever the case, make sure to buy something while you're there, because while the comics are free to customers, the stores have to pay for them. They pay much less than they do for a normal comic, but it's still money out of their pockets.

FCBD grows each year, and so does the selection of free comics. It can be a little overwhelming, particularly with all the extra traffic most shops experience during the event. It helps to have a few key comics in mind that you're interested in, so acquaint yourself with what will be available here. (Of course, keep in mind that not every comic shop will have ordered every single comic. Generally, the majority should be offered, however.)

With all that said, these are the FCBD offerings I'm most looking forward to tomorrow!

Bongo Comics Free-For-All/Spongebob Squarepants Freestyle Funnies
The Bongo crew always puts together a nice sampler of their publishing line, which focuses mostly on Simpsons-related comics. They also hold the title of Best. FCBD Cover. EVER! for last year's offering!

The Walking Dead Special
Many FCBD offerings stick to reprints of existing material, but Image's TWD issue is among those offering new content. Fan-favorite Tyrese, who finally debuted in the middle of the TV show's third season, stars in a new story, and we'll be getting reprints featuring Michonne and King Dickbag--er, the Governor. Obviously, this one is gonna be essential for fans of the comic or TV show.

Kaboom! Summer Blast
Boom's imprint focusing on kid-friendly comics publishes some fine material, including Peanuts and Adventure Time! There's bound to be something in here for pretty much everyone.

Atomic Robo and Friends
Obviously, this is always a highlight of FCBD! Publisher Red 5 proclaims Atomic Robo  the perfect comic to give to a new comics reader, and that is truly no idle boast. If you see this in your local comic shop, get it! Even if it looks uninteresting, give it a shot. Unless you just hate joy in any form, you're bound to like it a least a little.

Buck Rogers/Prince Valiant
For anyone interested in comics from a historical perspective, this one is definitely worth a look. Personally, while I am interested in the historical perspective, I'm looking forward to reading these classic strips, too!

I've heard of this historical-figures-battling-zombies comic, but never actually read any of it. Zombie stories have to have some sort of novel twist to get me interested at this point, and the historical angle is enough to get this history lover to pick this up.

The Smurfs
Papercutz's reprint series of the classic Smurfs strips are the first exposure many of us have had to the original comics, myself included. They're charming and fun, and I highly recommend this one to kids and adults alike.

Judge Dredd Classics
Judge Dredd is one of those characters I know about, but about whom I've actually read very little. Pretty much all I've read featuring Dredd are his crossover specials with Batman. Naturally, this issue reprinting a key story with new coloring is very attractive to me, and it has art by Brian Bolland to boot!

Mouse Guard/Rust
Archaia made a big splash with last year's FCBD offering, a great little hardcover book that was the talk of the event wherever I went. It was the first time I'd read any of their comics, and now I'm really looking forward to this year's issue. This is another great option if you want something aside from the usual superhero comics.

Red 10
A superhero retelling of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, this series debuted last year. I read about it, it looked interesting, and then I promptly forgot all about it. Oops. Well, it's back on my radar now, so I'll be checking it out.

The Tick
It's the Tick. Duh.

Overstreet Comic Book Marketplace
These Overstreet issues always have some very interesting articles about the history of the comic book industry, and I always look forward to them. Unfortunately, they're never available at the shop we go to. All the same, I'll be keeping an eye out for it tomorrow. Maybe we'll get lucky this time!

Valiant Harbinger Wars/Valiant Masters Showcase
The relaunch of the Valiant line has been chugging along nicely, and while I wouldn't call any of the books so far truly great, they've all been very solid and entertaining. I've read very little of the "classic" Valiant line, so whatever is in the Valiant Masters Showcase is likely to be new to me.

These are not the only FCBD issues I'm planning to get, but most of these are offerings from smaller publishers that you might not notice tomorrow unless you're specifically looking for them. Even this sampling of what's available displays the amazing diversity of the comic book industry, and there's no better time to try something new than FCBD. So get out there tomorrow and support your local comic shop, and have fun!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 4-26-13

It's been a few weeks since my last post; everything I own has been packed up, and most of it still is. We've been crazy busy with the renovation, and I've only just gotten things set up well enough for me to sit down and write a new post this week. (I was using my tablet to get online before, and if you think I'm about to type out an entire post using a seven-inch touchscreen, you've got another thing comin'!) Anyway, a hell of a lot has happened, so let's catch up on some of it!

First of all, the latest trailer for June's Man of Steel is amazing. I've been looking forward to the movie for a while now, but this trailer has ramped up my excitement to almost unbearable levels. Everything looks fantastic, and Hans Zimmer appears to have worked another of his musical miracles based on the parts of the score featured, plus what I've heard elsewhere. If you've managed to squeak by this past week without watching it, give it a look right now. Hell, watch it even if you've already seen it! It's that damn good.

Wrestlemania was on the 7th, and I watched it, of course. It was a decent, if predictable, show. Punk vs. 'Taker was the match to beat, and no one managed to do so. Rock vs. Cena version 2.0 was as by-the-numbers as you can get, but given the skill and hard work of both those guys, it was still pretty good. Still, the excitement I had for their rematch withered and died on the vine once it became clear a month or so before the show that Punk wouldn't be involved. Seriously, a three-way match would have been far better, and added the bit of newness to the mix that was desperately needed. The following night's episode of Raw was far better than 'Mania, actually. The live audience played a big role in that, adding so much to the show as only a truly wired audience can.

Superman and Lois Lane celebrated their 75th anniversary last week, and there have been tons of features all over the web. I've enjoyed CBR's coverage most of all, ranging from interviews with Superman creative teams from the past, and the extensive features on the CSBG blog. The fan-voted list of the 75 greatest Superman stories is a great place to start if you're looking to read some quality Superman comics. Sure, there are a few stinkers included, but that's bound to happen anytime you have a large group of people voting on anything; a few of the popular choices are bound to be sub-par. By and large, it's a damn good list.

Batman and Robin continues to be one of the finest superhero books on the market, as issue 19 amply displays. Red Robin guest stars, and although he unfortunately doesn't get much page time, the continuing story of Bruce dealing with his son's death is moving and engrossing. A surprising appearance by Frankenstein and the introduction of Carrie Kelly(the Robin of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns) into the current DCU make the issue that much better. If you like solid superhero books and you're not reading this series, you're cheating yourself.

Anyone who digs comics and streams Netflix has probably been lamenting the lack of DC animated shows available on the service. That finally changed last week, as Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman Beyond, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold were all added! Now, they just need to add Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: TAS, and The New Batman Adventures. And yeah, I already have most of those shows on DVD, but it's so much more convenient to stream them. I just wonder what the holdup is on the rest of the shows?

Whacking Day has arrived in the Simpsons: Tapped Out mobile game, and a slew of new content is included. With all the new content and features we got with the Whacking Day update, I was shocked that we also got the level 28 update only a week later, which delivered Fat Tony, Legs, and Louie, along with a few new buildings, and the Rich Texan as a premium character. Everyone has been whacking away for the past two weeks trying to get all the Whacking Day prizes, and the May 9th deadline is fast approaching! I snagged the final prize Monday night, so now I'm getting one of the Whack Boxes for every 1,000 snakes I whack. Each Whack Box grants you money or donuts; guess which one I keep getting?

Monday brought us the sad, sad news that Futurama has been cancelled again. The show has definitely had its ups and downs, surviving a previous cancellation by transitioning into a series of movies before returning to TV, and I'm one of the millions who have been with it every step of the way. I'm damn sad that it is ending, but at least we still have those final thirteen episodes to look forward to.

Free Comic Book Day, one of my favorite days of the year, is next Saturday! If you're unfamiliar with it, FCBD is held on the first Saturday in May each year, and is exactly what it sounds like: comic book publishers offer special issues for free, which are available at comic stores across the country. It's become a pretty big deal to Cindy and I, and we always make a day of it. We usually hit the store just before lunchtime, have lunch downtown, and then go see whatever comic-based epic is showing in the theater(that'll be Iron Man 3 this year). We also make time to check out a few other locally-owned businesses that we don't get to visit as often as we'd like, and just generally have a ton of fun! You can check out this year's FCBD offerings at the official website.

That's it for this week! Things are returning to normal here, so posts should proceed normally from here on out.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 3-22-13

I'm still in the middle of packing up all my worldly possessions, so things are pretty hectic around here. This week's column is again a bit on the short side as a result.

To kick things off, here's the trailer for Saints Row 4, which was released last Friday(after I already had that week's post up). It looks appropriately insane. I friggin' love that you're the president of the US in this game! Hopefully we'll be able to bling the fuck out of our White House crib.

What the hell is going on at DC? Wednesday, we discovered that incoming Action Comics writer Andy Diggle has left the book, while Joshua Hale Fialkov has left the Green Lantern books he was slated to write. The first issues of their respective runs have yet to even ship. Yesterday, the rumor made the rounds that Fialkov's exit was due to his objections over an editorially-mandated edict to kill John Stewart.  Writers leaving books over creative differences is nothing new, but there has been an unusually high occurrence of such conflicts since the DC New 52 relaunch. Frankly, DC editorial seems to be a bit of a mess, and that's not good for the line. It results in some poorly-written books, and that screws the readers who spend good money on them. I still enjoy a good many DC books, but all too many have been negatively affected by such issues in the past couple of years. There is one editor in particular who is involved with several of the books that have had these issues; one wonders if he might be the problem. Whatever the case may be, I hope DC editorial can get its act together a little better.

Here is an awesome story about the 1400 pound block of cheese President Andrew Jackson received as a gift, and how he disposed of it. This is a must-read.

This dude has figured out a way to grow pears that are shaped like baby Buddhas. That just rocks on so many levels.

I leave you with this animated Calvin and Hobbes strip, made by animator Adam Brown. Brown wisely chose a strip that is silent, so you don't have to worry about being weirded out by suddenly hearing a voice for Calvin.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 3-15-13

Spring break is upon us, that special time in which we take a week to celebrate my birthday! You're welcome. It's also been a crazy hectic week around here, so this week's column is well on the short side.

Reviews for the new Evil Dead are coming in, and they are overwhelmingly positive. I always reserve judgment on movies until I've seen them myself, but it is encouraging to see so much enthusiasm for this movie. I may have to wait until it lands on Blu-ray or Netflix, but I am looking forward to watching it. (This is the problem with having a significant other and a set of friends who do not like horror movies. You NEVER get to go see them in the theater.)

Speaking of that classic movie franchise, reports are flowing in about a sequel to Army of Darkness, which would mean we would effectively have two Evil Dead film series at once. Sounds great to me! This is not the first time we've heard that Raimi is working on a sequel, however, so try not to get your hopes up until they actually begin filming the thing.

Here is a very interesting site about M. C. Escher's unfinished Print Gallery, and how it was completed long after his death by a couple of mathematicians.

That's it for this week!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 3-8-13

My birthday is coming up on Monday, but I'm giving YOU a gift! I've made my first book, Nightmare Escapade: A Horror Anthology, free today through Tuesday. If you still don't have it yet for some reason, now is your chance! If you would then take a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, it would be much appreciated. Spread the word on Twitter and Facebook, and tell all your friends!

I was finally able to start playing The Simpsons Tapped Out last week; even with the release of the Android version of the game, it still was not available in Amazon's app store, so I had to sideload the game to be able to play it on my Kindle Fire. It's been a lot of fun building my own version of Springfield and populating the town, and the St. Patrick's Day update that came out yesterday added a couple more things, including the 50-foot magnifying glass and the leprechaun. You can check out some photos from my Springfield right here.

Via Reddit, here are some instructions on how to easily block a certain IP address that will stop all the annoying buffering on Youtube videos, returning it to the kind of smooth experience that was the norm several years ago. This post explains why this fix works.

The Big Lebowski, one of my favorite movies and a bona-fide cultural phenomenon, is turning 15. There are too many features and such celebrating the anniversary for me to run through here, so check out this link that'll let you pick and choose what you like.

I've been playing Saints Row 2 this week, after making my through the third game some time ago. There are definitely a few things the third game had that I miss in this one, but it's basically the same solid gameplay at its core, enhanced by the irreverent attitude that I love so much in the third game. It's already clear that the main story is going to be much longer in this game, but I think the third one made up for its brevity with the presentation and implementation of the missions. I just don't seem to enjoy many of the missions as much as I loved the main story in SR3. The game is still lots of fun all the same, and I'll be seeing it through to the end. The community seems pretty evenly split between those who like SR2 best and those who prefer SR3; ultimately, it mostly comes down to whether you prefer SR2's more even mix of zaniness with mostly straight-laced action and storytelling, or the balls-out insanity of SR3. For my part, I'm enjoying SR2 quite a bit, but SR3 was an absolute blast all the way through. I played through SR3's main story twice, but I don't see myself replaying this one once I've finished it.

Yesterday, DC announced that Kurt Busiek's Astro City is returning in June with a new ongoing series. For anyone who has read this book in the past, this obviously fantastic news! It's been far too long since we've had any Astro City, and we'd grown accustomed to only getting miniseries and one-shots, at that.

That's it for this week; download my book, and have a skeery weekend!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 3-1-11

Between finishing my first book, promoting it, working on my follow-up novel, and general life stuff, I've fallen quite a bit behind on my comic reading over the past few months. Sure, there are a handful of comics I always read each month, but by and large, they've been piling up on my tablet. I resolved last week to catch up, and I've done just that! By the time this week's comics went on sale yesterday, I had tackled the 100+ comics that were on my tablet and whittled them down to 8 issues of Groo. (I always keep a few issues of Groo on there, don'tcha know!) I still have a good bit of work to do on my next book, so its likely that I'll fall behind again, but I'll try not to let things get quite so backed up this time. (And speaking of my next book, there should be a big announcement about it soon. Just be patient!)

There is a huge sale on all sorts of games on Xbox Live until Monday, so go check that out if you have one. There've been some good deals, but nothing so far I want but don't already have.

There were pretty huge happenings in yesterday's issue of the always sublime Batman Incorporated, which were very obnoxiously spoiled by an official press release a day earlier. This kinda crap has become increasingly common in recent years. We all understand that this leads to a significant sales bump, but would it kill them to wait until the day the issue is released so that the people who read these books regularly have a chance to read the issue without having it spoiled? Reader rage aside, here's an essay by Grant Morrison that reflects on his seven year run on the Batman books, and here is an interview with Batman and Robin writer Peter Tomasi regarding how the events of yesterday's Batman Inc will affect his book. Be warned that clicking the links above, obviously, will tip you off about what happened.

My nephew recommended the HBO series Life's Too Short to me over the weekend, so I checked it out. It's presented as a reality show about actor Warwick Davis, but he plays himself as an egotistical bastard. Fellow show creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant pop up in each episode, as well. There are plenty of celebrity cameos, and the show is thoroughly hilarious. Here's one of my favorite bits:

Reddit threads of note: I don't give two shits about Nascar, but find it cool that Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson did an AMA earlier this week. We also got one from Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand. This one from a college student who teaches GED courses to prison inmates is pretty interesting. Here's one from someone who works in a chocolate factory!

You can't top getting the inside dope on chocolate, so that'll do it for this week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 2-22-13

Pretty sweet pic, right? Here's an entire album, all combining art from Calvin & Hobbes with photos to create something sublime. (Although the lack of reflections in the one with the wagon about to crash into the lake kinda screws that one up.) Here's another of my favorites:
You gotta love the hard-boiled adventures of Tracer Bullet, am I right?

Batwoman's epic teamup with Wonder Woman concluded with this week's issue of the always-amazing Batwoman. It was predictably awesome, but the bigger news coming out of it occurs at the end, and really should be experienced by reading the issue yourself, so go get it! I won't spoil it the way CBR did for me by pasting onto their front page Wednesday without bothering to add a spoiler warning. (Yeah, I'm just a little irritated about that. They typically post spoiler warnings for everything, mostly stuff I don't care about, but when it's something pertaining to one of my very favorite books, they just post it without a shred of concern for people who haven't read the issue yet. Probably just an oversight, but that does little to de-annoyify me. Yes, "de-annoyify" is a word now.)

I had completely forgotten about the Oscar-nominated Simpsons short that was shown before the latest Ice Age animated crap-o-rama last year. The Longest Daycare features Maggie facing off with her nemesis, unibrowed tot Gerald, in a daycare that seems like an even worse environment for a child than the Simpson home. (Longtime Simpsons fans will recognize the Ayn Rand School for Tots from the classic A Streetcar Named Marge.) The short was aired after Sunday's episode, and is well worth tracking down and viewing. It's only about four minutes long, but the wordless short is both amusing and moving. Check out the trailer:

Following last week's announcement that Geoff Johns and the rest of the creative teams were leaving the Green Lantern books, we didn't have to wait long to find out who will be replacing them. We'll have Robert Venditti and Billy Tan on the main GL book, Joshua Hale Fialkov writing both Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, Bernard Chang taking over as artist for GLC & Alessandro Vitti as the new RL artist, and Justin Jordan and Brad Walker taking over Green Lantern: New Guardians. Additionally, there will be a new series starring fan-favorite Orange Lantern Larfleeze by Keith Giffen and Scott Kolins.
I'm split about these changes. I usually like Robert Venditti's work, but I'm not crazy about Tan's art; it's quite a step down after having Doug Mahnke on the book for the past few years. Fialkov is another writer whose work I normally like, so no problems there. I like Chang's artwork, but this announcement means that he will be (presumably) leaving Demon Knights, so that kinda sucks. I'm unfamiliar with Vitti's work. New Guardians stars Kyle Rayner, my favorite GL, so I have some reservations about the new team on that one. Brad Walker's art is solid, if unspectacular, but the real concern I have is with the new writer, Justin Jordan. Granted, the only work of his I've read is the recently-cancelled Team 7, but it was bad enough that I dropped it after a couple of issues. Hopefully he'll do better work on this book; only time will tell.

With all the Halo posts lately, I've had a few people ask me what I think about season one of Spartan Ops, the bonus missions that are available to anyone with a copy of Halo 4 and an Xbox Live Gold account. The answer is: I dunno, because I haven't played any of it yet. I just finished the campaign a couple of days ago, and that was an undertaking that was far more trouble than it should have been. I was at the last part of the final level, about to face the Didact, when the goddamn power went out. It only went out for a few seconds, as it does at some point once every couple of weeks, but that was long enough to shut everything down and make me lose my progress. (Keep in mind, this is after I played the last level off and on for several days because it was kinda kicking my ass, so getting to the end was not easy.) At that point, I just said "Fuck it!" and watched the ending on Youtube. Turns out all I had left to do was mash a couple of buttons, so I still feel I completed the campaign since I got right up to that point before the electric company screwed me. I'll resume the level from my last saved checkpoint and finish that last bit at some point, once that irritation is not so fresh. In the meantime, I'm having fun playing Flood and Griffball, and I'll be starting Spartan Ops soon.

Speaking of Halo, Bungie, the franchise's former developer, finally made with some details about their upcoming "shared world" shooter, Destiny. We didn't get to see much aside from some concept art and less than a minute of gameplay, but Bungie did share a lot of information regarding what Destiny is all about, and what to expect when it releases. Frankly, it sounds amazing; hopefully they can pull off everything they say. You can check out everything they've shared so far here.

Sony revealed the Playstation 4 Wednesday, and I watched most of the live stream of the event. The console has a lot of promise, but Sony withheld many of the details, as expected, and often seemed hell-bent on drowning us in buzzwords. Most of the trailers and such were pre-rendered scenes, rather than actual gameplay. Bungie was brought out to close the event, to give the uninitiated an idea of how huge a deal that game is. The social aspects of the console were the most interesting to me. Hopefully we won't have to wait long for Microsoft to reveal the new Xbox.

That's it for this week!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rant Ramblings: Week of 2-15-13

Obviously, the big news this week is Sunday's tornado damage and the subsequent flooding. My girlfriend and I were at a restaurant Sunday afternoon when things began to get bad; we could see the sky to the west through the large windows, and it was literally black. Here's a photo she took on her phone.
The sky was much darker than it appears in the photo. Minutes later, we saw the tornado itself, and we headed into the kitchen. After a few minutes, it was clear the the tornado had gone in another direction, as it had been close enough that we would have known by that time if it had continued toward us. After things calmed down somewhat, we managed to find a path back home that wasn't blocked by fallen trees. Even thought the tornado had veered off in another direction, trees and debris from buildings were everywhere. After a few hours without electricity, the power returned; it went out for a while a few more times, but things were basically back to normal for us after that.
Not everyone in the area was so lucky. Last I saw, the official tally for Petal and Hattiesburg stands at 1439 homes damaged, and 298 of those were completely destroyed. More than 200 people lost their homes, though fortunately, no one was killed. There is much to do in the area in the aftermath; thankfully, the community has pulled together nicely to help those who were affected, and to rebuild.

Moving from that somber news to frivolous matters, DC Comics revealed that Geoff Johns is leaving Green Lantern. Johns took over the series in 2004 with Green Lantern: Rebirth, which restored dead boring douchebag Hal Jordan as the "main" GL and restored the Green Lantern Corps. The GL line quickly expanded into a franchise, supporting several series as the scope of the books broadened with the introduction of hundreds of new characters and the aggressive fleshing out of the mythos. I feel that Johns's GL lost much of its momentum and quality after Blackest Night, but it's still been a remarkably consistent and solid series over the course of the past decade. The rest of the creative teams on the GL books are leaving as well, though it remains to be seen if all-new teams are taking over the books, or if there will just be some shuffling around. Personally, I'll be surprised if Peter Tomasi doesn't take over the main GL book, but we'll have to wait and see. Whoever takes control of the franchise's steering wheel has some big shoes to fill.

DC's May solicits reveal the collections of the controversial Before Watchmen comics, which are due out in June and July. There has been much speculation about exactly how DC would go about collecting the various series, and they have settled on grouping series together (mostly) by writer. For my part, the only ones I plan to get are the Minutemen/Silk Spectre and Rorschach/Comedian collections. The other series were mostly just decent, and the Straczynski collection should be avoided at all costs, despite the excellent art.

The Death of the Family storyline concluded in Batman #17 this week, and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo absolutely killed on this issue. Their run just keeps getting better and better, and I can definitely see it  becoming one of those legendary runs that will be remembered fondly and highly recommended to new readers in years and decades to come.

Here's a photo album of a border collie who likes to balance various objects on her head.

I was able to get Halo 4 last week, thanks to a timely sale. I haven't quite finished the campaign, as I am about halfway through the final level and it's demolishing my ass, but I'm enjoying the game quite a bit so far. The campaign has been excellent overall, and even with a few irritations in the level design here and there, I don't hesitate to say it's the best campaign of any Halo game to date. (The main Halo games anyway; I have yet to play Reach.) I've seen some griping about the game not giving you enough information on the antagonist or certain events that occur, but honestly, if you find all the terminals and simply pay attention to the in-game dialogue and cutscenes, I don't see how you could be confused. I can understand some people being unhappy that you have to find the terminals and watch those videos to get the antagonist's background, but it's still part of the game, so it's not as if you're forced to go elsewhere for the information.
On every technical level, the game is absolutely superb. The graphics are probably the best of any game released to date for any game console; I really can't believe 343i managed to get a game on the Xbox 360's 7+ year-old hardware to look so damn great. Aside from the campaign, I've dabbled with the multiplayer, but haven't managed to stop playing Flood mode yet. It's loads of fun.

Reddit threads of note: Dave Grohl did an AMA, as did Bill Gates. Yes, that Bill Gates. Some pretty interesting reading in there.

Here is a gif of a cat born without the use of her hind legs. She gets by just fine.

Today is Valentine's Day, so be sure to have fun with your significant other, if applicable. (If not, be sure to get yourself some candy or something.) Here's the card my lady got today:
Jonah Hex'll give ya the screamin' thigh sweats.

I can think of no better way to wrap things up than with this gif of President Obama's exploding fist bump with Senator Mark Kirk at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.