The Sage Welcomes You

So, here you find a blog about life in general, but with a focus on family, games, books and creativity. Other "stuff" will creep in from timt to time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Omega Effect Part 3: Daredevil Issue 11

So, the concluding part of the Omega Effect came out yesterday. 


I picked it up at my local comic book store (Beyond Comics, yay!), and I have to say that i have mixed feelings about the conclusion.  I enjoyed the book.  The art continues strong.  I enjoyed the dialog, I felt the pacing was good, and the conclusion was satisfactory, and yet somewhat unsatisfying.  We came into the mini-event with Daredevil having the real problem of possession of the Omega Drive.  He concluded that he needed to destroy the drive, despite the fact that others would use it (Punisher) or turn it over to those who could use it (Spiderman, suggesting the Avengers or Reed Richards).  To keep Daredevil's friends and associates safe, he, Spidey and Punisher (along with his ally Sgt. Rachel Cole-Alves) agree on a truce during which they will take the fight to Megacrime, and once they have those organizations undivided attention, they will destroy the drive.

Well, things did not go exactly to plan, and that is part of the fun.

But, in the end, despite a lot of action, Daredevil still has the drive, and nothing about the looming danger is resolved. 

This is not to say that nothing happens.  For Daredevil, the more important things has happened.  He may have convinced Sgt. Cole-Alves to leave the path of the Punisher and maybe reclaim her life.  She represents his second chance of saving someone, where he feels he failed with Frank Castle.  Also, the three heroes get to take a major bite out of Megacrime and subject them to a big beatdown, with Spidey using his Avenger status to Call in SHIELD for cleanup.

So, Waid gets to keep the Omega McGuffin going, and that is intriging and probably fun.  But part of me was anticipating the resolution of the drive issue.  And that part of me is only a small part, but that part of me is disappointed.

Still, on the whole, I really liked the event and I liked this issue.

Here are what others are saying:

Comic Vine (4/5 stars) "This is not at all a bad comic; in fact, it's very entertaining. There is some really fantastic art in this issue and it is a great end to a cross-over event. I personally really enjoyed reading these three characters team up and work together. I liked seeing them keep a common goal in mind even if they didn't agree with one another. The fact that they did not agree actually made the story even more entertaining to read. Overall, not a bad issue and this book managed to wrap up the story very neatly"

IGN (8.5/10) "For a crossover event that has been solid for the first two thirds of its story, I fully expected Daredevil #11 to maintain the quality of The Omega Effect thus far and those expectations were met. This is a solid conclusion to the Daredevil/Punisher crossover that has a profound effect on both Mark Waid and Greg Rucka's series. Even for those that have only been reading Daredevil, Waid does an admirable job of getting you up to speed on Omega Effect right off the bat, though it's inevitable that the key dramatic beats of the story will likely be lost on you."

The Other murdock Papers "The criticism often leveled at cross-overs is that they are too often about rounding up a group of heroes just for the sake of putting them in a story together, where the story becomes nothing more than an alibi for doing so. With the Omega Effect, we had something very different going: a collaboration that felt organic, and which grew naturally out of a story that had been brewing in Daredevil for quite some time. There were also hints along the way (based on interviews with the writers) of the fall-out of the event affecting both the Daredevil and Punisher series in the coming months. Why, then, with everything going for it, does this story inexplicably end up giving this reader the feeling that the Omega drive was nothing more than a plot device to get these characters to team up? Yes, it was fun. Despite the destination leaving me cold, it was a fun ride getting there. But it feels as if there was so much potential for something more substantial."

Comic Vault (Story 10/10, Art 10/10) "Mark Waid wraps up the "Omega Effect" crossover with all of the elements that made the first two parts of the story so damn good intact . . .

Waid does a stellar job of presenting the story from Daredevil’s perspective (it is DD’s book, after all), exploring how Matt Murdock feels that he failed the Punisher by never being able to pull him back from the proverbial ledge before he went all the way over. Feeling he can do the same for Alves, we’ve seen Murdock try to talk sense into her once before in this crossover (during Rucka’s Punisher #10). Whether or not he gets through in this issue remains to be seen.

Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth continue to deliver the goods artistically. There really isn’t much I can say about it that I didn’t already touch on in my reviews for Avenging Spider-Man #6 and Punisher #10, so check those out, too.

What are you still reading this review for? GO PICK UP THIS CROSSOVER!"

iFanboy (Story: 2 - Average, Art: 4 - Very Good) "We left the second installment of the Omega Effect with an ambiguous ending in Punisher 10 last week and it didn’t get much better from there with this issue. Spiderman is a total throw away character in this entire arc and it seems like the Omega Drive is simply a MacGuffin to flesh out Rachel Cole-Alves. But even that falls flat as all we are treated to is Daredevil yelling at her. A poor ending to the arc and a rare misstep for Waid’s run on Daredevil."

Punisher Central (B+) "This issue had tons of action and even some tense and more quiet dialogue scenes. That entertained me tons! I was also anxiously anticipated the last few pages as I had no idea where this all was leading to. The book goes by fast with all the action and if you are a fan of Spider-Man, Daredevil or the Punisher then you are in for a treat."

Update April 27

CBR (1.5/5 stars) ""Daredevil" #11 is a frustrating comic. It's drawn beautifully and the scripting is strong. The problem is the plotting itself and that's what drags the book (and overall story) down a great deal. The strengths of "Daredevil" #11 are from the window dressing, but it's hard to ignore that the core itself is weak at best. It's a pity, because I expect much more from both "Daredevil" and "The Punisher" these days. Not this book's finest moment."

Suraph "What this all leads up to is that Omega Effect was a bit of a disappointment. After a strong start early on the crossover slowly fizzled out and eventually led nowhere."

Population GO (4/5) "All in all, it’s another solid issue of Mark Waid’s Daredevil run, it’s still well worth your $2.99, and if new readers jumped into this crossover I’m sure they’ll be inspired to keep following either of the series involved, if not simply to see what happens next with the Omega Drive. It may not have had the conclusion I originally expected, but it was a nice story to have before we do get to that conclusion."

Talking Comics "You won’t be sorry you read Daredevil #11 as it features Mark Waid’s wonderful prose and pacing, but you will find yourself unsatisfied with where this story goes. One bright spot is that I’m now familiar with artist Marco Checchetto. I started out cool to his grittier style, but found myself really appreciating what he brings to the table by the close of the issue. The end of the book does promise ramifications for Daredevil in the issues to come, but until that happens I’m calling this arc a wash."

Newsarama "Don't get me wrong, there's been a lot to like about "The Omega Effect," teaming up Spider-Man, the Punisher and Daredevil, but I think this saga hit its peak in the first installment, and was unable to top itself moving forward. . . . Ultimately, this book suffers most from its high expectations — this team is capable of some fantastic stuff, and the low-impact conclusion of "The Omega Effect" doesn't quite hit that mark."

The Collective "For those who haven't been reading Daredevil or "The Omega Effect", this issue probably won't do much for you, but if you have been following the story, this issue is a satisfying conclusion to the storyline, and offers some great story points for characters not only in Daredevil, but in Punisher as well. With so many big events going around in Marvel, it's good to see that the smaller ones are just as good, if not better, than the big guns." "Overall, "THE OMEGA DRIVE" [sic] is a rare crossover in which the focus is on characters and interaction versus on generic action and cookie-cutter editorial mandates. It is for that reason it has been a pleasure and not a distraction, and why it is one that Marvel fans shouldn't miss."

Update April 30

The Doom Pool (5/5) "First off, this DD run is pretty damn good from #1 on. Pick it up. Issue 11 is not only a fitting end to the story arc (centering around a data drive that a number of crime organizations want), it shows DD at his best. We get the action early on, then a beautifully rendered and tense scene between Punisher’s ally, Cole, and Daredevil. It is a great example of action not being predicated on combat or chase, but emotional tension, arguments, debate, etc. "

Trinity Comics "The creative team for the crossover really stepped up their game. Mark Waid has been kicking ass on Daredevil since the relaunch and Greg Rucka has been doing some cool stuff with Punisher"

Weekly Comic Book Review (C-) "A fun crossover completely undercut and shot to bits by a terrible conclusion.  Seriously, the Omega Effect may as well have never even happened.  This entire crossover achieved nothing.  But hey, on the plus side, that Marcos Martin cover is totally wicked."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Omega Effect Part 2: Punisher Issue 10

For my money, another great issue (mild spoilers to follow).  I was very into the flow of action in the book and I was quite surprised by the twist on the last page.  The dialog was snappy, funny and character appropriate.  I can't wait to see how it all turns out in Daredevil next week.  Picked my copy up (along with Daredevil 10.1 for reference) at my local comic book store, Beyond Comics (yay!).

Here are what others are saying:

IGN (8.5/10) "What's most remarkable about The Punisher #10 is not the fact that it's an exciting middle chapter to Greg Rucka and Mark Waid's The Omega Effect, but that typical to Rucka's Punisher run, Frank Castle gets the least amount of screen time yet says the most through his actions. Spider-Man and Daredevil are very much the stars of the show, banter and all, but Rucka keeps the narrative centered around Frank despite his physical presence being slim – something that has defined his run this far."

Punisher Central (A-)  "This book doesn’t have as much action as the first part of the Omega Effect but it is clear that the action is about to go through the roof in Daredevil #11. This book reflects Rucka as a writer who explores themes and motives of individuals and why they do what they do. Also in traditional Punisher fashion there is a fantastic swerve on the last page of the book."

Comic Vine   (Verdict: "this crossover is continuing to be a blast to read") "What makes this crossover great is each character is different and gets to stay true to who they are. Spider-Man acts like Spider-Man; Punisher acts like Punisher...except does his best to restrain from killing. One of my favorite parts is seeing Spider-Man's witty/annoying banter and how the others do their absolute best to try to ignore it. Greg Rucka has been killing in on this title (no pun intended) but to see him so beautifully write the three distinct characters and mesh it all together is brilliant. We've seen crossovers and guest appearances often give a pale imitation of the the character we see in their own title. Reading this issue makes me want to see more of this kind of thing. If we can get crossover stories of this caliber, I'm 100% for them."

Picks of the Comic Book Week (Honorable Mention) "Despite requiring DD fans to shell out for two extra issues of other books, this crossover ends next week, and knowing when to exit a stage gracefully is a skill more crossovers - and comic book stories in general, frankly - should learn."

Waiting for Wednesday (Art 9/10 Story 9/10) "The Omega Effect continues this week in Punisher #10. This is by far my favorite Marvel cross over in a very long time. The story is just soooooo goooooood. Mark Waid and Greg Rucka are knocking it out of the park."

Silver Snail (4.5/5) "I'm not going to lie: this Daredevil/Spider-Man/Punisher crossover, "The Omega Effect", is turning into one of the better sleeper hits this year. It's taking three of Marvel's best written books and allowing them to weave into each other on a simple yet effective level, keeping plot points easily-explainable and cohesive. It's a sign of good writing when a reader can miss part of the story (in my case, the Spider-Man chapters) and piece together what has happened in the meantime while they were away."

UPDATE April 20

Comic Vault (Story 10/10 Art 10/10) "Overall, Rucka keeps the second part of this crossover moving at the same brisk pace while maintaining the fun factor and seamless writing it began with.  Coupled with more stellar art by Marco Checchetto and Matt Hollingsworth, this is another must-read in a thus-far perfect multi-book crossover."

The Comics Journal ([no rating, generally unfavorable]) "Everybody on this comic is working very, very hard. Checchetto is trying to cram as much real drawing in alongside all the computer trickery he uses to put in the recognizable New York City landmarks, Greg Rucka is working extra hard to make it seem like this version of Tough Stoic Lady Character is different from the ones he did in Batman, Checkmate, Huntress, Queen and Country, Whiteout, Ultimate Elektra, Batwoman, and Stumptown. But you know what? It’s still a comic about an external hard drive."

Suraph "The Omega Effect pushes towards a conclusion next week this feels more like an exercise in treading water than moving anything forward. It's a fine issue all around, but not much of substance happens. Given how strong a start Omega Effect had last week in Avenging Spider-Man it's a bit disappointing to see it lose a lot of that momentum here. Daredevil #11 should rectify all that, though."

Update April 23

ComicVine (5/5 stars) "Part one was great and, no surprise, this one is as well. Punisher, Spider-Man and Daredevil have different tactics and views but with all their past run ins, they can easily put them aside when necessary. Rucka and Checchetto have made this a great series and this crossover has been a welcomed and complete surprise. It is unfortunate that each part of the story takes place in a different comic. It's even more unfortunate that this will only last three issues. PUNISHER is a great series and this crossover is continuing to be a blast to read."

Inside Pulse (8.0/10) "Based on those complaints, it may seem like I really hated this comic, but I actually thought it was great. There were just some small details that annoyed me a little. . . .  While most of the industry’s attention has been on Night of the Owls and Avengers Vs X-Men, I really think Omega Effect is shaping up to be the best crossover going on right now. Three issues, self-contained in these three titles, two great writers (Rucka and Waid), and only one artist (Marco Checchetto). So, defintiely check out Omega Effect! Besides, in a few issues, Daredevil will be takin on Doctor Doom! Now that is a comic I just can’t wait to read!"

The Weekly Crisis (Verdict: Buy It) "The issue works for fans of every character involved, and is moving at a pace where it doesn't read like a needless cash grab crossover which is too prevalent these days. Add a decent cliffhanger for the final part next week in Daredevil #11, and it looks like this isn't a story that will just be ignored in a month or two."

CBR (4.5/5 stars) "Although this is the middle segment of a three-part story, Rucka and Checchetto make it every bit as enjoyable and approachable as the opener or finale. The major difference here, however, is that the stakes are raised in this issue and the imaginary soundtrack music is reaching a deafening crescendo on the final page. This story is in high gear and there's simply no walking away from it now."

Major Spoilers (Bottom Line: Still On Board; 3.5/5 stars) "For being a Punisher title there was little focus on Punisher as a character, but that is the risk you run doing a cross-title event. As the second part of The Omega Effect the issue worked really well. Characters were allowed to shine in turn, with more insight to their character given, and the story continued at a nice pace with a cliffhanger to take us into the final act of this three-part event. Punisher #10 was a fun read and also a must read if you are following The Omega Effect  . . ."

iFanboy (Soty: 3 - Good, Art: 4 - Very Good) "Although this arc deals with the Omega drive overall , there is a progression in the character development for Coles, based on her exchanges with Daredevil and her actions. In the end, this arc is turning out to be a lot more than placing three comic characters in the same issue to get sales, even if it is, at least I feel like they are adequately covering it up for my taste.
Look forward to the next issue."

Level Up Entertainment (3.5/5 stars) "This issue had some great moments with Daredevil delivering a baby, Frank one upping a joke on Spider-Man to a strong character moment between Daredevil and Sergeant Alves."

The Outhouse "I also liked that Rucka fit in some pretty funny Spider-Man dialogue, this book has been so terse and often dialogue free that Spidey’s free-wheeling banter is refreshing to see, and using Frank Castle as his straight man was great. Marco Checchetto’s art was very strong once again (apart from the aforementioned last page confusion), I’m relishing the triple-serving of him this month."

Outer Realm Comics (4.5/5 stars) "In the second part of The Omega Effect, Daredevil, Spider-man and Castle decide to take the fight to megacrime."

Update April 24

Newsarama (7/10) "In certain regards, Punisher #10 does do a lot right — the characters work well together, there's some action involved, a nice cliffhanger, some beautiful art. But as far as showing the Punisher's point of view, well, it doesn't exactly do Frank any favors. You can't always bat a thousand, and this comic still stands higher than much of its competition... but that still doesn't make this less of a sophomore slump."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A brief shout out

Let me just say that writer Justin Peniston and artist William Orr are really great creative minds and really nice people.

Justin writes web comics (among other things) both Hunter Black and Planet Pantheon.  Hunter Black is hard boiled fantasy, basically taking some of the tropes of the American Noir tradition and placing them in a fantasy setting that any reader of George R.R. Martin or player of Dungeons and Dragons will immediately recognize.  William is the artist for Hunter Black.  I love his style.  He is highly influenced by the seminal Samurai Jack animated show, but he totally owns his version of the style that shows up.  I love Hunter Black.  Planet Pantheon is still growing on me.  It is a blend of science fiction, mythology and heroic journey which has been a slower build out of the gate.  I recommend it and am sticking with it because there is clear quality involved, and I believe it is going to pay off.

Anyone out there, definitely read these web comics, and if you are lucky enough to get to a con where these guys have a table, say "hi", buy some of their awesome posters, and help them make their work pay.  These guys need to eat to be able to create, y'know!

The Omega Effect Part 1: Avenging Spider-Man Issue 6

The Omega Effect is a three part cross-over between Spider-Man, Daredevil and The Punisher.  The first issue came out last Wednesday with Avenging Spider-Man #6 and continues this week in Punisher #10 and concludes in Daredevil #11 next week.  A good lead in if you have not been following these titles (IMHO) is to pick up Daredevil 10.1 which does a quick catch up on DD and feeds directly into the event.  I am getting all my issues from my local friendly comic book store, Beyond Comics (yay!).

So, how is the first issue?

My short review is that it is terrific!  The art is superb and really shows wonderful range for artist Checchetto.  Waid and Rucka merge their worlds seamlessly and we have three standout characterizations for Spidey, DD and Punisher.  This is Spidey's title, so he gets the spotlight and it is wonderful.  He is funny, vulnerable and heroic.  Just what you want.  Even though the regular Avenging Spider-Man team is not on this book, the spirit of what they have done in the first five issues of the comic carries forward.  The event is exciting, but not forced.  I look forward to more.

Here is what others are saying:

IGN (8.5/10 Great) "The Omega Effect is off to an impressive start with Avenging Spider-Man #6. With the promise of big repercussions for all characters involved and the talent behind the story itself, I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be one of the most talked-about stories of 2012."

CBR  (4.5/5 stars) "I've been enjoying "Daredevil" and "The Punisher," so I won't feign shock at enjoying this book. What did surprise me, however, was the extent to which I enjoyed it. In this issue, Waid and Rucka build enough of a story that anyone could pick it up and find their way along. If you happen to be a regular reader of either title, the story just enhances the characters and whets the appetite for more. Thanks to great creators and fabulous characters, "The Omega Effect" is off to a great start."

 Science Fiction dot Com (Verdict: Burn) "If there’s a redeeming feature to this issue, it’s the artwork from Marco Checchetto. His style lends itself well to all three of these characters, which could’ve been offputting since Spider-Man tends to be lighter in tone than both Daredevil and (obviously) Punisher.
So, if you’re already reading ‘Punisher’ and/or ‘Daredevil’, you might want to pick this one up. However, if you’re just in it for some Spider-Man fun, you’ll be sorely disappointed."

Inside Pulse (7.5/10) "Not bad, but no where near as good as Waid’s Daredevil run. Great art and characterization make up for a lot, but not enough to justify the price tag."

Comic Book Revolution (8.5/10) "Avenging Spider-Man #6 is an excellent start to this three book crossover that will also involve the Punisher and Daredevil titles. From the first page to the last there is no wasted page or panel in this issue. Greg Rucka and Mark Waid keep the entire issue focused on the story as they present us with some background into what The Omega Drive is and why Spider-Man, Punisher and Daredevil are fighting over who should hold it. With how much content Avenging Spider-Man #6 had I cannot wait to see what Rucka and Waid have in store for us in the next two issue with Punisher #10 and Daredevil #11."

Super Podcasto Magnifico (4/5) "Greg Rucka and Mark Waid have crafted a great start to The Omega Effect mini event without leaving out details from the characters’ individual titles. Hopefully the remaining two issues won’t fall below the quality bar this issue set."

The Other Murdock Papers "Yes, this issue might have left me a little confused, but I’m still very satisfied that we’re going to get a story that – while there are no guarantees it will make perfect sense – at least delivers on the character work and dialogue. I’m glad Punisher #10 is just one week away!"

Best Shots Comic Reviews (9/10) "The choice to have Mark Waid and Greg Rucka work together on Avenging Spider-Man was a brilliant one. Both men are adept writers in their own series, as well as in this one. Waid, whose Daredevil series is one of the best on the market, has written what I think are some of the best Spider-Man comics ever, and Rucka’s work in Punisher is not to be missed. Despite the heavy tone of the conflict, and the Punisher’s penchant for killing people, Waid and Rucka keep the story light. In a crossover that I would think all fans are looking forward to, the first part sets the groundwork for a series that is fun and exciting."

Comic Vine (4/5 stars) "Avenging Spider-Man really doesn't Avenge anything, but who cares? This book is awesome. It has a great creative team behind the issue, and the story is a ton of fun. Checchetto does a great job with giving tweaks to a few characters, and his overall artwork is wonderful.
Panel composition and panel set up is cool and refreshing and will keep you interested throughout the issue. There's a lot of great detail within the panels, and you'll love the action sequences.
The only problem I had with the issue is that it's going to run into two other Marvel series which may be a bummer for people not reading Avenging Spider-Man. At the same time, if you want to complete this story, you have to read Punisher and Daredevil.
Overall, I highly recommend this issue, and I'd even suggest picking up Punisher and Daredevil to finish the story."

iFanboy (Story 4/5 Art 5/5)  "After this initial issue I’ll probably be looking at finishing out the story, and if that’s my jumping on point for DAREDEVIL, which I hear is great, then so much the better. Meanwhile, AVENGING SPIDER-MAN never disappoints."

Pop N Culture (5/10)  "The art is a bit hit and miss, Punisher feels and looks out of character but is tolerable."

Suraph "The Omega effect is off to a very good start, and I hope it's an indicator of future small-scale crossovers in the Marvel universe. I bought this issue on a whim, and it turned out to be one of the most satisfying reads of the week. I shouldn't be too surprised, though, since the pedigree of the creative team is so strong."

Crave Online (Story 5/5 Art 3/5) "This is an awesome little side story in the middle of all the Avengers Vs. X-Men hoopla. No crazy tie ins, no huge life altering story arcs, just our heroes swinging into danger to try and thwart evil."

The Comic Vault (10/10) "This is a flawless start to the Avenging Spider-Man/Daredevil/Punisher “Omega Effect” crossover.  The writing is tight, and has some of the best Spider-Man one-liners I’ve seen in any book, and I’m really fighting the urge not to spoil any of them because they’re just that good.  If you’re not a regular Daredevil or Punisher reader, there’s enough context here to bring you up to speed and prevent any confusion.  The tone, detail, and overall flow of the art is on par with the writing, as well, making this issue a definite 'must buy.'"

Player Affinity (9.8/10)  "What it comes down to is that if you’re a fan of any of these characters -- Spider-Man, Daredevil or Punisher -- this issue is worth your time and money. You aren’t going to find better portrayals of any of them. It’s going to be a real shame if Amazing Spider-Man’s much hyped Ends of the Earth story ends up overshadowing this one, because it almost every respect, this looks to be the superior story. The Omega Effect combines two of the classic relationships of the Marvel Universe and drops them into the middle of a potential gang war featuring the likes of AIM and the Secret Empire. And bottom line -- it’s done extremely well."

Avenging SpiderMan #6 Review (YouTube Video review) (9/10) "This is a great issue."

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Battle of Shiloh's Sesquicentennial

It was the sixth of April
Just at the break of day
The drums and fifes were playing
For us to march away

The feeling of that hour
I do remember still
For the wounded and the dying
That lay on Shiloh Hill

The Battle of Shiloh Hill attributed to M.B. Smith (Co. C, 2nd Regiment, Texas Vol.). 

One hundred and fifty years ago in Tennessee, the armies of the Union and the Confederacy fought the first really great and terrible battle of the Civil War.  The carnage was appalling on both sides.  Though the war was about a year old, this battle was the worst that had been yet seen.

By the end of the war, it would not rank in the top five of the worst battles for casualties or suffering.  The National Park Service has a terrific summary of the battle here.

It was a battle that signaled the shape of things to come.  Also, it was a battle that is, for me, like a microcosm of the war.  On the morning of April 6, the Confederate forces, under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, took the Union forces, under Ulysses S. Grant (William T. Sherman was also present) by surprise, and, in fierce fighting, pushed the Union back, demonstrating a command of the battlefield.  However, by the end of the day, the Confederates, though preliminarily victorious, had lost their commanding general to battlefield injuries, and they were exhausted, ill equipped, and underfed.  Nonetheless, the day is remembered fondly in Confederate songs such as "Hold Our Glasses Steady" which is all about how big a beating the South gave the North on day one of the battle.

The problem is, that song conveniently forgets the events of April 7, 1862.  The Confederates, despite having been exhausted and hungry at the end of the first day of battle, had had little rest and provision.  They had captured some Union supplies, but through the night, they suffered bombardment from Union ironclads on the Tennessee River, which while inflicting minimal casulaties, seriously impaired the troops ability to rest.  During the night, Grant received reinforcements, and in the morning, the battle was renewed with a fierce Union counter-attack.  Ultimately the Confederates were driven from the field, at terrible cost to both sides, and the way was opened for the Union to enter the Mississippi Valley and ultimately to gain control of rail and waterways which severely damaged the Confederate cause.

However, it dawned on both sides after Shiloh, that there would be no quick victory for either side.  Nonetheless, I see Shiloh as a kind of pattern for how the war would go.  While the South might seize quick victory at first and be quick to remember the glory, the truth was that the Union was a determined giant that was ultimately unstoppable and would pay the cost to end the war with victory.

And why is Shiloh important to me, beyond it's historical lessons?

I had a third great grandfather at the battle.  He fought, from my persepctive, on the wrong side, being a private in the 21st Alabama Infantry Regiment.  He had been an overseer (according to census records) in his civilian life, which is not something that makes me proud.  My past is intimately intertwined with the great and terrible questions of 150 years ago: war, slavery, honor, duty, patriotism, rascism, so called "states rights." 

My ancestor was Burrell Hudson (some public information here) and he left his wife and children to fight for the Confederacy.  His life thereafter was tragic, just as our nation suffered a national tragedy.  On the first day of Shiloh, his unit fought with distinction ("The 21st Alabama covered themselves with glory. This regiment captured two batteries") on the first day of battle.  They retreated with the rest of the army when Grant pushed them back.  The unit saw little additional action.  I would expect that my third great grandfather's feelings might have been like those quoted by a Union soldier survivor of Shiloh: "No soldier who took part in the two day’s engagement at Shiloh ever spoiled for a fight again,” recalled one Union veteran. “We wanted a square, stand-up fight [and] got all we wanted of it.”

But my ancestor had more to suffer.  As I have written elsewhere, Third Great Grandfather Hudson was captured with most of his unit after the battle of Mobile Bay, when Admiral Farragut took the port from the Confederary.  Hudson died in federal custody in the terrible conditions of the Elmira POW camp.  Later his wife died and his children were left as orphans to be raised by his father and mother-in-law. 

So, as I remember this terrible battle from our history, I also think of the toll on my own family, and a am amazed by how much still is unresolved after so much suffering and sacrifice.  I know the Confederates were wrong, and wrong on just about every level.  Yet our nation, which is only whole because Lincoln fought to preserve the Union and successfully made the war into more than a struggle for Union, but added to it emancipation, still looks back at times with fondness for the Confederacy. 

I remember that our country can do great wrong, and that my ancestors were a part of it, and I resolve to do better.  We have paid the price, at Shiloh and other places, for our follies, and we must continue to pay.

Until we find a way to balance the ledger.

It's a long road, but one I will walk.

So I remember Shiloh.  A terrible battle, at a place that means Place of Peace; an American paradox.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Some Comics are Good

At my old blog, I once did a short post on trying to get back into reading comics, that was titled something like "Some Comics are Bad."  Brilliant, I know.  Not sure why Pulitzer hasn't called yet.

Still, the issue was that, with the totally unscientific sample of books I had been able to grab off the shelf of my local library, I found precious little from either DC or Marvel, that was worth the time it took to read.  Thus, I largely pulled back in and read only what I could get of work by my friends Greg Rucka and Jen Van Meter.  This kept me largely away from Marvel and often put me in the Indie Comics world with stories that I really enjoyed.  Based on that limited view, I knew that comics could be very good, but I doubted much could be found, particularly at Marvel.

Why so down on Marvel?  Well, even though there are a ton of characters that I love from Marvel, I often find the universe and the editorial management of it pretty awful.  I could cite a lot of things, but the crazy, messed up storyline that resulted in eliminating Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane really exemplified the kinds of style without substance that I perceived working at Marvel.  Trying to read Civil War in trades (again, yay library) also reinfoced that.  Here we had a mega event, with tons of talented people working at it, and yet I found the storyline just bad (my opinion, doesn't have to be anybody elses, but I'll say again, it was BAD).  What stuck with me was the event was extremely plot driven and the organic development of or reactions by the characters were subordinated to the plot.  For me, that is never good.  The characters in many cases came off as cardboard pieces on a big game board, rather than interesting and complex individuals.  Since Marvel was doing one of these plot driven monsters pretty often, it just seemed like, even where you had a solid creator behind a title, it was likely going to be hijacked and the characters would start doing really stupid out of character things to advance the plot.

So, I stayed away, read my Rucka and Van Meter stuff, and dove into the past getting trades of the old Question, Justice League International, and Walt Simonson's run on Thor. 

Two things made me reconsider.  One, Greg started writing The Punisher.  Now, while The Punisher has been a long established and somewhat interesting character from time to time in Marvel, mostly I considered him kind of a bad joke.  Hey, let's have a superhero whose power is, wait for it, GUNS!  In general, not my thing, and not, I would have thought, Greg's thing.

Ah, but the power of a good editor and a writer given a chance to write a character (a bunch actually), that, I had not counted on.  Now, I just have to say, thank you Stephen Wacker, I think you are the best!  Suddenly I was pulled into the Marvel Universe by a character I had scant given consideration to.  Great writing and great editorial changed my mind.  Still, I was not that interested in going deeper in.

Then, Margaret Weis Productions new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game came out, and it is really fun.  It set me on a path back to exploring Marvel, and suddenly, I found out that, despite all the things wrong with Marvel (and I still maintain they are many), there are some really terrific writers who have written some fantastic books in the last 10 to 15 years.  So, while you know I am totally biased towards Greg Rucka, here are some other writers I am really happy to know.

Ed Brubaker (Secret Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Winter Soldier)  I know, you all are saying "duh!"  He wrote Gotham Central with Rucka, and that was amazing.  How hard was it to find him?  Well, I have to admit the heresy of not liking Criminal very much and while I enjoyed his reunion with Rucka on an arc of Daredevil, I was just kind of avoiding Marvel comics in general.  But dang, Secret Avengers!  Those totally rock.  The other stuff then follows and there is no doubt he is a terrific writer.  I have been reading what I can get my hands on (on a limited budget).

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente (Incredible Hercules, Prince of Power, Chaos War)  OMG!  Hercules was this B-list character, a foil for Thor.  Not ANY MORE!  These guys reinvented Hercules and gave us Amadeus Cho.  The world will never be the same.

Mark Waid (Daredevil [and a million other things I am going to discover])  Mr. Waid is poised to win a number of Eisners, and despite my rabid Ruck bias (who was not even nominated darn it), I have to say he is really deserving.  The current run of Daredevil is astounding.  And, he handles both sides of the character right.  A lot of writers really don't understand what Matt Murdock does as a lawyer.  However, that is a really important part of the character.  Waid gives a lot of time to it, and he does it right.  I am really, really impressed.  I know he is a long time player in the comic book world, and I am looking for more stuff to read, especially some Fantastic Four stuff, becuase I hear that is great.

Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers, Moon Knight, and like a gazillion other things)  Okay, I know, "DUH!!"  Clearly, he has changed a great deal about Marvel.  Mostly for the good.  Now, I have to qualify my love for Bendis.  He does some great character work, and I think nobody does Spider-Man like him.  He also did some really intersting things with Moon Knight and I am sorry they have cancelled the title.  However, he does have a terrible habit of having characters go on, and on, and on, in rambling di/monologue.  You can get used to it, but sometimes he has a story really humming along and you hit a page that is just a person talking, talking, talking, for like six, eight panels, all down the page, and it is like hitting a traffic jam.  Still, he writes good characters and gets to do things no one else has done at Marvel.

Jeff Parker (Agents of Atlas, Gorilla Man) Okay, another OMG moment.  I love Agents of Atlas.  I can't say that Marvel didn't try to make them work.  Maybe they didn't do it the right way, maybe some other plan would have made the first or second ongoing survive.  It's hard to know.  All I can say is, thank you for the time we had with Atlas, because it was really good.  Now I have to seach out other stuff Parker has done.

Paul Cornell (Young Avengers, Captain Britain & M.I. 13) Captain Britain & M.I. 13 was another series that did not last, but the writing, for me, was top notch.  I didn't love every element of the first arc of Young Avengers, but in general it was good.  Must see what else Cornell is doing for Marvel.

Matt Fraction (Defenders, and lots of other stuff)  Just "discovered" Fraction's Defender stuff.  It is gonzo fun.  Hope to read more by him.

Honorable metion: Joss Whedon (Astonishing X-Men)  Yeah, super-"DUH!"  Don't have to look for his comic work though.  Whedon had a very solid run on Astonishing X-Men.  He really hit great character notes.  Some of the plot stuff did not wow me, but he inherited a lot of it.  I more appreciated that he really understood the characters and even in plots I disdained, I enjoyed the characters, because he understood how they would act and react.  Now, he is (hopefully) going to be making many insanely popular bockbuster movies, and punctuating that with little side projects, and he probably won't write comics for a long time if ever again.

On the horizon: Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel (2012)) I have not read a word by her in comics yet, but she is pioneering the latest effort to get a female flagship hero into the stable of Marvel Comics.  I want that to happen, and so, how can I not start buying.  Captain Marvel is slated for release in July 2012 and I have my preorder in at my local comic book shop (Beyond Comics, yay!).

So, that is my growing list of authors for whom I will search.  Marvel, I have a love hate relationship with a lot that you do, but you have employed some terrific writers, and I am going to do better about finding and following them.