Saturday, 31 January 2015

PokéJournal: Update 017

-I'm baaaaaaaaaaaack! 

-Here I am, once again, training on the Ice Path. At the same time I’m going around using the Dowsing Machine to see if I’ve left any items behind. I don’t find anything using the machine but I find a Heart Scale after smashing a rock. That’s a good find.

-I’m really just looking to train my team. I know I have to go see the Kimono Girls but I’d rather wait and toughen up my team. I get tired of training in the Ice Path so I head down Route 45. I encounter a couple rock types so I switch out Quilava with Heracross for my lead Pokémon. I keep on battling and find a Full Heal.

-I was fighting a Gligar and it used Knock Off on Heracross and she lost dropped her Amulet Coin. It gave me a mini heart attack. Wouldn’t it be the worst if you could actually lose items, important held items, to wild Pokémon?

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Wolverine and the X-men vol. 8 review (Unread 006)

This is it. This is the volume of Wolverine and the X-men I was waiting for. Volume 8 collects Wolverine and the X-men Annual #1 and issues #38-42. This is the last volume of the series before it got rebooted and it’s the best volume of the series since the first two volumes. With this final volume the Jason Aaron and the artists demonstrate once again what the series is about. It’s also nice to be able to look at the series as a whole. After concluding my reading of Wolverine and the X-men it is clear to me that the series is yet another example of how the modern climate of superhero comics negatively affected the quality of this and other comics.

Wolverine and the X-men has been disrupted by event storylines on three occasions. Several issues where spent telling tie-in issues to Avengers vs. X-men, two issues completed wasted as part of the X-men: Battle of the Atom event, and finally the annual issue was linked to the events of Infinity. Thankfully for two of these events (Avengers vs. X-men and Infinity) Aaron was able to tell engaging stories despite editorial requirements to make his story work in tandem with the larger story of the Marvel Universe. The downside is that it completely undermines any momentum the series had built at the time the event storylines intruded.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wolverine and the X-men vol. 7 review (Unread 005)

I’ve mentioned before how I really like Jason Aaron and that makes it all the more disappointing that the volume 7 of Wolverine and the X-men is probably the lowest point of the entire series. It’s a shame because for a while Wolverine and the X-men was the best X-men title at Marvel. With X-men: Schism in 2011 Aaron was spearheading the line and thanks in part to his efforts and the efforts of many other writers it was an exciting time to be reading X-men comics. That was true for almost a year. By the time the Avengers vs. X-men comic around, Wolverine and the X-men along with all the other X-men titles were pulled into a companywide event. The stories radically shifted focus but Aaron was still able to write interesting stories, despite the Marvel Universe’s new direction.

It wasn’t all bad though. Since the series written by Aaron wasn’t the only one affected it still remained the most enjoyable and consistent X-men comic. When I reviewed volumes 5 and 6, my enjoyment was based on the return to form following the interruptions Avengers fighting X-men and nobody being really satisfied with the event. The downside to those volumes is that you could easily sense that Aaron and his team of artist were working hard to rebuild the momentum the series had lost during the event. It’s great that they were doing so but it also made those volumes feel like they were laying the ground work and everybody was holding back a little. At the time I hypothesized that the series was building towards a big storyline which was meant to pay-off on all the subplots that were building since the first issue.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson volume 2 review (Unread 004)

When I read the first volume of Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson I went in with some pretty high expectations. I wasn’t quite expecting something as good as his legendary run on Thor but I was still hoping to find a comic that was really worthy of the Visionaries title it was given. I’ve read of few collections in Marvel’s Visionaries line and they’ve all fluctuated quite a bit in quality. For the curious at home I’ve read Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil (excellent stuff), Alan Davis’ more or less solo run on Excalibur (quite good but degrades in quality with each volume), and Peter David’s first run on X-Factor during the 90s (plays around with some neat ideas and is mostly memorable for one amazing issue, the rest is basically exactly what you would expect for 90s era X-men). In terms of quality I would place the first volume of Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson between Alan Davis on Excalibur and Peter David on X-Factor. It was good but nothing exceptionally noteworthy in terms of superhero comics. The second volume, much to my delight, is an improvement on the first.

It might help that I went into the second volume with lower expectations but the fact is Walter Simonson impressed me a little. He continues the story form the first volume not by giving you more, but by giving you less. The excess and decompression of the time bubble story was the cause of my disappointment with the first volume. With the second volume, Simonson tells two stories related to the Fantastic Four’s adventure in the time bubble but they’re shorter, more tightly focused stories that somehow also managed to be very fun and enjoyable without ever being juvenile. I would also argue that Simonson’s art is more interesting here than in the previous volume. All in all, volume 2 which collects Fantastic Four issues #342 to 346 suggests that Simonson’s run on Fantastic Four might just be worthy of the Visionaries title it received. I’ll have to read the third volume to in order to be certain.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Blog Fantastic 034: The White Dragon review (Unread 003)

The Dragonriders of Pern is one of the series I’ve written the most about as part of my Blog Fantastic project. It’s a cheat since it’s pretty clearly a science fiction series but my blog, my rules. The series has a shit ton of dragons in it and that’s enough to quality it as fantasy for me. The White Dragon is the third and final volume in the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy but it’s the fifth Pern novel to have been published. I’ve been reading them in publication order so I broke up the original trilogy with the first two volumes of the second (or concurrent?) trilogy focusing on the Harper Hall. As such, the main plot of The Dragonriders of Pern continues with this volume but it doesn’t bring a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Certainly it wraps up several elements of the story so far but it also poses many new questions.

The trouble with the Pern series is that it’s not something you can easily adapt into a trilogy of books. The problem is that Anne McCaffrey’s stories are essentially slice of life. There are no villains, instead the books has a few antagonists. With Pern she’s developed a colonized planet and the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy focuses on the rediscovery of dragonriders’ role in Pernese society. The first and second books are mostly about discovering the fictional world and it works well because the reader learns along with the characters. It makes for a very interesting read because the world McCaffrey created is rather fascinating. The White Dragon has plenty of moments of discovery and innovation as well but it brings a more balanced approach to it because we also get several chapters’ worth of everyday life on Pern from the point of view of several different characters.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Naruto 3-in-1: volumes 25-26-27 review (Unread 002)

Naruto 3-in-1 volume 9 is a collection of the individual volumes 25, 26, and 27. The first volume collected in this edition deals with a subject that Naruto fans have been waiting for since the very first volume of the series. It’s the climactic battle between Naruto and Sasuke, his biggest rival. It’s a climactic battle because these events wrap up Part One of the series. While that wasn’t obvious to fans who original read it, it’s made very clear in hindsight. It doesn’t really matter because the hook here is simply reading about a no-holds-barred fight between two powerful and promising ninjas of Konoha, the Land of Fire. More specifically, this is a chance to see Naruto and Sasuke’s respective special abilities measured up and potentially put an end to fan debates that have existed since the beginning of the series: who is the strongest shinobi?

The battle takes up all of volumes 25 and 26. For better or worse, it’s made up of as many fight scenes as there are flashbacks. I believe it’s for the best as the flashbacks simultaneously develop Sasuke’s past, specifically his childhood while also providing additional information regarding Sasuke’s brother, Itachi, and the Uchiha clan. As one of the more mysterious figures at this point in the series, these flashbacks are welcomed and make for a good read.

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Blog Fantastic 033: The Silmarillion review (Unread 001)

Like many other fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, whether you discovered it before watching The Lord of the Rings films or not, you eventually find out about The Silmarillion. There are varying opinions about this work but one of the prevailing comments made about it is that The Silmarillion is a difficult book to read. Having been forewarn of the challenges I put off reading it for years even though I really wanted to know more about the history of Middle-earth. For now, I’ll simply say that it was unfortunate to not have read it earlier. I wilfully deprived myself of a wonderful and satisfyingly challenging reading experience.

As most fans of Tolkien’s body of work will know, The Silmarillion was published posthumously. Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien, assembled the book from multiple manuscripts into a cohesive narrative. In doing so he had a lot of difficulty as many of the stories told in the book existed in multiple versions while other texts were incomplete or only fragments remained in the possession of the Tolkien Estate. In order to reconstruct certain texts as well as create original material to bridge certain passages together, the young Tolkien enlisted the help of Guy Gavriel Kay, a Canadian who became a renowned fantasy novelist in his own right a few years after the publication of the text. Much can and has been said about Christopher Tolkien’s efforts but I will not be discussing them here as I would like to focus on the published work, not on the editing of the book nor its merits as something wholly or only partially attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien. I must admit that I personally find that sort of discussion interesting though I don’t think it’s entirely consequential. One thing is clear, I’m very grateful that he and Kay took on the challenge. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985-1986) review

Last year I made the decision to watch Mobile Suit Gundam, the granddaddy of all Gundam series. After finishing the series I wrote at length about it and I had plenty of good and a few bad things to say about the show. As you can surely tell from the title of this post I’ve watched the sequel series titled Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam which was originally broadcast in fifty episodes from 1985 to 1986. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was a direct sequel to MSG. That’s actually pretty surprising in itself since MSG was cancelled before it could complete its intended run. In the intervening years between the end of MSG and the beginning of ZG the original series gained quite a bit of popularity. Having recently finished ZG I’m pleased to say that I’m glad a sequel was made since it turned out to be a very good show, equally good to the original series but with much better animation.

Yoshiyuki Tomino, the man responsible for directing MSG, also directed ZG. He wasn’t the only crew member to return as Yoshikazu Yasuhiko once again did character designs and Kunio Okawara returned as mechanical designer, this time aided by Kazumi Fujita. Two notable mechanical designs by Okawara include the RX-178 Gundam Mk-II and the RMS-106 Hizack while Fujita is credited with the design of the titular MSZ-006 Zeta Gundam. The influences of these crew members is clearly felt and seen in ZG as the series feels like a natural progression from MSG for better and for worse. Before getting into more details of the good and the bad let’s recap the basic story of the series.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Year of the Unread – An Introduction

Anybody who really enjoys reading has a reading list and a to-be-read pile. It’s such a simple way to help you keep track of what you’d like to read next that there are dozens upon dozens of online articles written about to-be-read piles, not to mention forums where the topic is discussed. I’ve got a TBR pile of my own and I think it’s quite huge. It’s made up of books I own that I’ve never had the chance to read or took the time to read after I bought them. I’ve come to the realization that I buy books faster than I can read them. That’s always been the case but I’ve always been able to keep my TBR pile respectably small. That’s no longer the case.

I’ve been trying to figure out why my TBR pile has gone out of control and I think there are multiple factors at play. For starters I’ve always been a bit of a distracted reader. I’m always in the mood to read more than I’m physically capable of reading at a given time. When I was young I was able to read one series from start to finish but as the years went by and I’ve discovered more writers, genres, and series I started to read a bit more broadly. This resulted in my developing the habit of jumping around from series to series. My living situation has also had an impact on this. I grew up in the country and bookstores didn’t exist in my town. I could only find a Coles or Chapters if we went out of town and into the city. The one we visited from time to time was a good two hours away. When I would visit a bookstore I would buy trilogies or series and I would stick to authors and series I knew for fear of buying something I didn’t like.