Categories
Comics

Archie Comics

I recently got turned back onto Archie comics when I decided to dive into Jughead, which is currently being written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics).  I’ve only read the first two issues (this part of the run currently by Chip Zdarsky) but it’s fantastic. Very reminiscent of the classic Archie comics I remember reading.

So I think I’m going to start picking up the Archie digest comics every now and then. My brothers and I used to read them ALL the time when we were kids. In fact, I’ve been meaning to pick up our old collection again next time I’m at my parents house.

The greatest thing about these comics is that they’re easy to read through, and are funny no matter how old you are.  And I don’t think the humour has changed in the over 75 years the comic has been around. I love that each writer keeps the same overall style while brining their own flair to the series.

I just found a book that must be from 2008 or so. It’s things like this panel that crack me up every time.

Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?
Who knew Archie comics had this wonderful invention built into their books this whole time?

I’ll do a full review post of the Jughead run once I finish it. But spoiler alert – it’s fantastic and you should read it.

Categories
Comics

Vader Omnibus – Volume 1 Review

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Vader comic book series, and it was recently recommended to me by Patrick of Make Dad Read Comics to read it – I had a $50 gift card burning a hole in my pocket so I finally picked up the first 12 issues, collected in Vader Omnibus – Volume 1.

If you haven’t come across this comic book before, the general idea behind it is that it follows Vader’s antics immediately after the destruction of the first Death Star.  It joins the long standing tradition of comics and novels filling in the space in between films, which I can always get behind.

I finally finished the book over the weekend, and I can say that I really enjoyed it.  One of the interesting things that it does is knock Vader down several notches.  He’s somewhere in between his status in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back; he’s still taking orders from other Imperial officers (Tagge, this time), but isn’t quite as fearsome as he appears in ESB.

What’s interesting is that the Emperor is really displeased with Vader in this comic series.  The destruction of the Death Star at the end of A New Hope is a big failure for the Empire, and for Vader in particular.  At this stage in the comics, Vader must really prove himself to the Emperor again, while being placed under the supervision of an Imperial officer.  What results is Vader taking it upon himself to gather his own covert forces to track down Luke Skywalker.

There are several cool flashback moments in the comic that re-contextualize Vader a little bit.  It made me realize that he was probably thinking of his past at a few different points in the movies, even though the prequel trilogy came much later.   But the real highlight of these first 12 books are Captain Aphra and her droid factory (I’m hit or miss on Triple-0 and BT but more on the hit side than miss).  I just found out today that she’s going to have her own comic book series – and I think I want to check it out.

I would gush more, but I need to give this another read through.  Especially since I also just learned that the second volume is coming out Feb 28th, so I have another book to pick up soon.  Suffice it to say that the Vader series is well-written, well-drawn, and is fun to read through.  I definitely recommend it!

Categories
Comics

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud over the weekend – yes, I typed that correctly; I started the book sometime Friday and finished it Sunday.  If you want to skip my review entire, I’ll tell you straight up that I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.

As I mentioned, I was able to finish it in a weekend.  Surely I missed a lot of information, but at around 215+ pages, it’s not a very dense work of non-fiction – there aren’t a lot of words, and the bulk of it is juxtaposed next to images to help drive the point home.  It makes for a very quick read, but the material is there to make it a very deep dive if you’re so inclined.

The format is presented in black and white, with one chapter briefly featuring bits of colour (for emphasizing the uses of colour in comics).  Everything was otherwise clear in terms of conveying information, so definitely no marks lost for lack thereof.  In fact, I think the one chapter about the use of colour helped to bring attention to the material at hand.  Releasing it in colour may have diluted the information a bit, maybe.

The book is clearly well-researched.  McCloud knows what he’s talking about, and goes back to information and comics centuries’ old.  There are a few parts where it feels slightly repetitive, but never dry.  I really enjoyed how it made me realize some of the unseen techniques going on with comics that I hadn’t really considered before.

At times I felt a little overwhelmed with some of the ideas presented, and I feel like McCloud went a little far-afield with some of his ideas.  But overall it was presented in a friendly format and is a fun essay to read through.  4/5, definitely recommend.

Categories
Books

Hunter – by Wil Wheaton

Alright, so I re-read Wil Wheaton’s short story Hunter tonight; I’m posting this from mobile, so you’ll have to find the link when I wrote about it in my last post.

Anyway…It’s not as good as I apparently made it out to be in that post. If I were to grade it now, I’d give it a 3. The world building is done well, but the characterization is only okay. I can see my own writing reflected here. 

Also, the twist at the end? Not really that big of a twist ending. 

I still recommend it if you have some money to blow – it’s pretty cheap after all. And it’s a short read. Took me maybe ten to fifteen minutes. 

Categories
Beer

A Tale of Three Brewers

Last week I was working out of Barrie, ON while my wife was completing some training. Naturally, I decided to check out the craft brewery scene while I was there. There are three of them in Barrie: Flying Monkeys, Redline, and Barnstormer Brewing. Here’s a mini review of each spot.  Note that I didn’t spend a ton of time in each place – so my reviews are based on first impressions.

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Redline Brewhouse

Redline Brewhouse
A newer brewery, this one is family owned and operated and launched in mid-2015.  When I first stepped in, I was impressed by the atmosphere – very large and spacious, with cool decor on the walls (barrels, what have you).  The theme of this one in basic terms is cars – all of their beer is named after cars in some form, and their logo is a gear shifter.  Redline’s focus seems to be on the brewhouse part – when you walk in, while there is a large store for you to buy from, I think the restaurant makes them the most money.  I didn’t get the warmest of welcomes when I went in to buy beer, but still was pleasantly surprised by their 6 offerings.  I haven’t tried them all yet, but they’ve got a variety of styles and definitely worth checking out.

Barnstormer Brewing Company
Barnstormer Brewing Company

Barnstormer Brewing Company
I felt Barnstormer had a bit more of a brewery vibe than Redline.  The focus was still on the restaurant here, but their store front is – well, front and centre when you walk in.  They have a large variety of beers, including many seasonals.  I picked up 4 cans, but haven’t tried them yet.  The staff there was helpful in answering some of my questions about their beer.  I’m looking forward in particular to trying their Cirrus Saison beer. Their theme seems to be aerial in nature.

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Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
These guys are fun.  A much smaller location compared to Redline or Barnstormer, they’re in a downtown area not far from the waterfront.  As soon as I walked in, I was greeted and asked if I’d been there before.  The server was really helpful with answering my beer questions, and I ended up choosing a couple of multi-brewery collaborations.  They have so much more to choose from though, but probably worth another trip another time.

In summary, Barrie is about 3 and a half hours away from where I live, otherwise I would have picked one brewery and spent more time there.  As it is, I think I’d make a special trip to see Flying Monkeys – but I’d just look for the other two at the LCBO.

 

Categories
Comics

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope

infinitiesanewhope16 years later, I finally read Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope.  If you’re not familiar with the title, the Infinities series is basically a “What If” series of comics published by Dark Horse in the early 2000’s, starting with A New Hope in 2001.

I first picked up issues 2, 3, and 4 – probably 16 years ago – based on the cover of the books; at the time, I couldn’t find issue #1 in the comic book shop, so I never read the books.  Finally, this year, I found the first issue and got to reading.

Overall, I’d give the series a 3.5/5.  The first issue is definitely the weakest, starting off with a quick summary of what really happened in A Ne w Hope, with some narration boxes saying…”what if something changed” (I paraphrase)?  In the case of SWI:ANH (my abbreviation), the detail that changes is Luke’s torpedoes fail to destroy the Death Star.

What follows is that the Rebel Base gets mostly destroyed, but the Rebels  manage to escape…for a few minutes.  Han and Luke believe that Leia is dead, triggering a massive angry outburst from Luke.  They manage to escape, and on starts this new saga.

I think the best part of this story has to be the depiction of Coruscant as the seat of the Empire, taking familiar locations from Episodes I and II and flipping them around.  For instance, the artists draw the Jedi Tower almost exactly as it appears in the prequel films, but use it as the Emperor’s private residence.  It’s a very fitting place for the Emperor to set up shop, really.  But the artist team get the details perfect, including the landing platforms that are used as well.  I recognize them all from the prequel trilogy.

Overall the writing is pretty sharp and tight.  I recently read the Dark Empire series from Dark Horse, and didn’t really enjoy the writing in that series.  However, the story progresses well for Infinities and the character choices make sense.  Well, Han doesn’t really have much to do other than shuttle Luke around – but I liked the sequence where Han, Luke and Chewie head to Dagobah.  That part does work.

If you can track the series down at some point, I definitely recommend it.  I’m going to look for the other Infinities series soon – hopefully they’re just as good.  Next up though, I have the first 12 volumes of the new Darth Vader series on the way to my mailbox, so I’m looking forward to getting started with that.

Categories
writing

Looking Back at Old Reviews

For some reason while writing yesterday’s post, I went looking at older posts from my old blog.  One thing that struck me immediately was that I wrote very prolifically, and with just about the same enthusiasm as I am with this blog.  A lot of the early posts are reviews of different pieces of media I’ve consumed recently, and my overall thoughts about them.

With one of my goals for 2017 being to read more, I thought I would have a look at some of the things I’ve read over the years.  I’ve identified a few things that I want to have another look at, based on my original reactions and the fact that I don’t remember what they’re about anymore.

Hunter by Wil Wheaton.  This appears to be an eBook that Wil Wheaton originally released as a pay-what-you-can title.  You can pick it up from Amazon for 75 cents, and apparently I really liked it the last time I read it, so that sounds like a steal.  According to this post, I originally paid $1.00.  Well worth it.

I, Robot by Cory Doctorow.  From the same post I reviewed Hunter, I reviewed I, Robot as well.  These two stories sound like they would make a good sci-fi double-header and darn it all, I wish I knew what twist I was talking about!

I wasn’t getting why it was titled “I, Robot” until the payoff at the very end.

World of Wonders by Robertson Davies.  I don’t think I ever finished this novel, the third and final piece of the Deptford Trilogy.  In fact I might want to re-read Fifth Business and The Manticore before I come back to World of Wonders.  This might be on the back-burner, as I have several other novels I want to read through this year.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  I read his latest novel Armada last year, and liked it a lot.  It’s been in the back of my head to re-read Ready Player One for a while, so maybe I’ll do that at some point.

I think that’s all I need to revisit for now.  I thought there might have been more, but I don’t have time to read through all my old posts at the moment.

Categories
Podcasts

Podcasts For 2017

I consider podcasts to be one of my areas of expertise.  I’ve been listening to them for over 10 years, and have hosted one for almost as long.  I listen to podcasts almost every day, and subscribe to a lot of them – so I’m always adding or subtracting from my active subscriptions.

Here are three recommendations for 2017 – some of these are older and have been around for a while, and others are a little more recent.  I’m 99% sure that most of these will NOT show up in your typical Buzzfeed list of “most popular podcasts”.

  • The Night Time Podcast – This is a Canadian-produced show based on mysteries and other strange occurrences, mainly in Atlantic Canada, but also stories across the country.  Host Jordan Bonaparte has strong focus on The Curse of Oak Island and Emma Fillipoff and gets some good guests for discussion.  If you were ever a fan of ABC’s Unsolved Mysteries, you’ll like this one.  Can be rough around the edges but Jordan is growing into his hosting duties.
  • Harry Potter & The Sacred Text – OK, this one might show up in one of those “top 10 podcast” lists as it’s been gaining a lot of momentum since it launched sometime in 2016.  The hosts of this show aim to analyze and discuss the Harry Potter book as they would a religious text.  The result is some different view points while reading through the book that I may not have considered before.
  • Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast – This is one that ends up on my lists all the time.  The mission statement is simple: the hosts watch each and every episode of Star Trek (including the animated series – they’re on TNG Season 5 right now), and discuss the morals, meanings, and messages presented.  You don’t need to watch the episodes alongside – they do a great recap – but I highly recommend it, because I know I’ve missed a lot of things I hadn’t noticed before when watching casually.

I subscribe to many more, but a lot of them are even more niche than the ones I recommended above.  If you want some more good ones, ask in the comments!