What I’m reading/writing/learning

What I’m Reading
I’m a bit behind on my comic book reading; and, in actuality, I’ve cut back significantly on the number of books I’m buying every month. I’m down to less than a dozen books a month now, which I’m OK with even though I’d really prefer to be closer to eight. I’m buying both of IDW’s ongoing Transformers series (More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise) and all three of its G.I. Joe books (G.I. Joe, Cobra, and the newly-renamed Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow). I haven’t kept up with the Transformers books like I did before IDW split its one ongoing series into two after Transformers 125 (which I never got), so those are almost in the “I’m only buying these because the shop is pulling them for me” territory.

My DC reading was getting out of hand with their New 52 initiative, and I dropped all but four titles from them — Animal Man, Batman, Batgirl, and Birds of Prey. I missed Animal Man #9, so just by that I may be done buying that one even though it’s a title I have enjoyed quite a bit. Batman is just shockingly good; I read tons of Batman books when I was a hardcore comic book collector in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and while I’m not at all familiar with his recent print history this is as good as any Batman story I’ve ever read. Scott Snyder is just in the zone with the way he’s written the story so far, and Greg Capullo is doing absolutely astonishing work on the art. I’ve looked forward to it every month for eight months now, and it hasn’t let me down yet. Batgirl and Birds of Prey have just been fun books; Gail Simone is right in her element writing Batgirl, and I’ve just been surprised at how much I have enjoyed Birds of Prey. It’s been a really good team book.

I’m also reading three books a month from Image — Invincible, Morning Glories, and Saga. I’m all-digital with Image — I have the first seven hardcover collections of Invincible and the first two trades of Morning Glories, but have never bought single paper issues of either series. I got the first issue of Saga because of the buzz about it online, and then went digital with it just because I loved it so much. All three of these titles, really, have a spot among my favorite books right now, along with Batman and Cobra.

You’ll notice no Marvel books on my list. As much as I love their characters, I’m not buying any of their books. Moon Knight was really cool and I enjoyed following that for a year until it wrapped up; Daredevil was fantastic but suffered the Animal Man fate and got swept aside when I missed an issue somehow; Ghost Rider was silly fun before it wrapped up after nine issues; I decided to quit on FF when it went into space and got kinda silly, and I’ve been buying the second SHIELD miniseries — but it’s been many, many months now since the last issue came out, and I have no clue what the status is on that series moving forward. I bought the first two issues of the Scarlet Spider series that Ryan Stegman was doing art for, but that didn’t hook me; Stegman’s fantastic, though, and now that he’s moved to pencils for Fantastic Four I am probably going to check that out.

What I’m Drawing
As much as I love to draw, and as much as I really wish I was better than I am and had the ability to put the things I can see in my head onto paper rather than just being a Xerox machine of marginal quality, hammering out somewhat decent, but not quite good, copies of work produced by actual artists, as I’ve been trying to get back into it on a more serious basis, I have found it difficult to find motivation to draw regularly. I know, those two sentiments compete mightily and make absolutely no sense. But it’s exactly where I find myself.

So in order to provide myself a push, I bought 15 blank 5×7 Canson watercolor postcards and put out a call on Facebook to my friends — the first 15 people to respond would get a drawing on one of these postcards, which I would then mail to my home. Right now I have a queue of 28 postcards to draw — the response has been overwhelming, and I’m quite excited about that. I hope I can get to all of them in a respectable amount of time; I suspect it’ll be a project I will be working away on for the majority of the summer.

I’ve started already; the first two cards are completed and ready to go out the door. My process has been to start with a light purple sketching pencil to define shapes, then use a 5H pencil to build the image. From there, I’ve been inking over the top of the pencils with Kuretake Zig Memory System Millennium markers — they come in a five-pack of various point sizes that runs about $10.50 at Target — and then erasing all of the pencil lines and coloring the final image with Prismacolor markers and pencils.

Right now, the Kuretake pens are killing me. They’re fantastic pens — if you stop at the inking stage. I’ve discovered the hard way that the ink isn’t waterproof; the Prismacolor markers will catch the black lines and smear ink all over the place when I’m trying to color the cards.

I had an Amazon gift certificate to burn, so I took the plunge and bought a four-pack of Copic Multiliner SP inking pens a couple of weeks ago. I’ve wanted to try Copics for awhile; the ink is waterproof and is specifically designed to use for this kind of inking and then colored over with markers. So I think for Card 3, I’m going to switch from the Kuretakes to the Copics and see how that works out. I’m actually afraid that I’m going to fall head over heels in love with the Copics and want to buy more — because they are stupidly expensive.

What I’m Learning
I spent today trying to learn a couple of new social media tools – HootSuite and Storify.

HootSuite is pretty much just like TweetDeck or Seesmic or any other Twitter client along those lines; it allows you to create different columns for different content and search piles of stuff simultaneously, has functionality to allow you to keep track of Facebook, etc. It’s got some built-in post scheduling abilities that are either non-existent or not as apparent as they should be on the other clients.

Most of the “good” features of HootSuite are limited to the pro (“paid”) version, which costs about ten bucks a month; so who knows if they’re even worthwhile. I’ll probably just pay the $10 at some point to try them out, and if they seem useful I’ll keep paying them.

There still is not a multi-column Twitter client that allows for any decent way at all to manage user lists. You can add users to lists in HootSuite, but I need to do some digging to find out if that’s actually adding users to my Twitter list (which means their membership would be available to me in other clients, like TweetDeck or the Twitter desktop and/or mobile clients), or if they’re just added to a cloned version of that list that only lives in HootSuite. If it’s the latter, that’s basically useless.

Storify allows you to cobble together bits and pieces of stuff from all over the web, with an emphasis on social media posts, to build a “social story.” The best way to explain it is to just show you the test story I built this afternoon. You pick and choose social posts, images, web pages, text snippets, any piece of content you can find on the web, really, and mash it all together into a “story,” along with text fields that allow you to put the pieces into context or weave an overall narrative to stitch them all together into something coherent. I can foresee a few applications for this for work; I can also foresee a few uses of it for some of my other side projects. I may try to use it to support the comic book reviews I write; I have never felt like putting in the time to download art, format it for the blog, and upload it to support the written reviews. It’s just seemed like too much work. But, I can see how it might be pretty easy to cobble together the existing pieces of the comic from all over the web — IDW’s original solicit for the issue, the cover art, the preview that gets posted, pencils/inks/etc. posted by the creative team on their various blogs and hangouts all across the Internet — and smoosh them together into a “supporting art” story in Storify, and then just link to the Storify story from the review. I might give that a shot this week and see how it goes…

Comic review: IDW’s “Cobra” #13

Cobra #13
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Antonio Fuso, with colors by Arianna Florien
Cover B: Antonio Fuso, with colors by Arianna Florien
Cover RI: David Williams, with colors by Joana Lafuente
Cover RI: David Williams

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso
Colors: Arianna Florian
Letters: Neil Uyetake

It’s hard to know where to focus when considering a review for Cobra #13; Mike Costa introduces two legitimate “holy crap” moments in this issue, the first midway through as a mysterious new financial benefactor for the recently defunded G.I. Joe team is revealed, and the second as a brilliant and thrilling page 22 cliffhanger that will immediately hook fans of IDW’s universe who also were invested in the 1980s Marvel series.

The Joes’ new benefactor makes sense on every level; you’ll just have to read the issue for yourself to find out what that twist is. That new benefactor also plays a role in the issue-closing cliffhanger, as he delivers to the Joes a piece of intelligence that could provide to be a game-changer in G.I. Joe’s efforts to get back into the fight against Cobra.

Beyond the two incredible twists Costa introduces to the post-Cobra Command story arc, this issue highlights what has been the strength of the series from the very beginning — its ability to focus on what could be considered sidebar characters in the wider G.I. Joe mythology and make them the centerpieces of an enthralling storyline. While the main characters here are A-listers Flint and Tomax, with an emphasis on Tomax, Ronin gets a starring role in a brilliantly-staged action sequence to kick off the issue, and the main narrative is driven by the Chameleon/Firewall/Lady Jaye trio that we’ve seen together throughout much of this last six months or so of this series.

Snake-Eyes and G.I. Joe stumbled a little bit out of the blocks as IDW attempted to follow up on the Cobra Command story arc, but Cobra has never faltered. Cobra #13 is a fantastic example of what readers have come to expect from IDW’s best G.I. Joe series.

Cobra #13 allows Antonio Fuso to showcase basically everything he does well — his five-page action sequence featuring Ronin to kick off the issue is simply beautiful. There’s a fluidity to the way he shows Ronin moving on the page, and the use of tiny inset panels to focus on some tiny element from the scene, or adding an internal panel border to highlight a particular section of an image all serve to pull the reader into the page and, as a result, completely into the scene. Across the entire sequence, there are only three instances where Ronin’s entire body is in the shot, and she is twisted into a radical positions — usually hovering at an impossible height — which does a great deal to emphasize the physical and athletic advantage she has over the quite-grounded Vipers.

You just never know what you’re going to get when you turn the page of an issue of Cobra; pages 11 and 12 are a perfect example of this. Page 11 is an example of what Fuso does so well in this book, with a radical and unique panel layout — what is essentially a full-page Panel 3, with Panel 2 inset over the top of it, and Panel 1 floating over both of those; panel 4, the same dimensions as panel 1, anchors the bottom of the page overlapping only the third panel. But inside the third panel are three tiny square panels, which show only one eye of each of three characters as they’re getting retina-scanned, and those tiny insets are where speech bubbles get attached to advance the story. It’s a fantastic page.

But, turn to Page 12, and you get three horizontal panels stacked on top of each other; a shallow panel at the top that sets a scene by showing only the tops of three characters’ heads, a second panel that’s twice the height of the first panel, zooming out to reveal more of the scene, and a third panel that’s four times the height of panel 1, zooming out again to establish a first glimpse of G.I. Joe’s new headquarters. As Page 11 is complex, Page 12 is simplicity. Fuso does these things constantly, and it’s tremendously fun to experience.

The A and B covers are both done by Antonio Fuso, with colors from his usual interiors running mate Arianna Florien, and continue a six-cover series running across all three IDW G.I. Joe titles in May. Fuso’s duo feature the main players from this issue, Flint on Cover A and Tomax on Cover B. The Tomax cover is fantastic, mostly due to the way Fuso has him posed in the frame — hands behind his back, holding an umbrella. He’s just calm and chill, always in control of the room, as he has been throughout most of the series.

David Williams’ retailer incentive cover features Flint unloading on something off-camera with a shotgun while standing on a craps table; colors by Joana Lafuente. The second retailer incentive cover is an uncolored version. They’re a mixed bag; the colored version makes Flint look like he has a mustache, and the uncolored version has him looking a little wide in the hips.

The Terrordrome has a preview of Cobra #13 here.

Today has been a mixed bag of fun and garbage

Where I’m Visiting
I write to you from the Cedar Valley Resort in Whalan, Minn., a short seven-hour drive south of my usual digs in Bemidji. I’m here for three days of conferencing goodness as part of the Minnesota Two-Year College Marketing Association; this is really my public debut as the associate director of communications and marketing representing Northwest Technical College. It’s going to be an adjustment to get used to having responsibilities for them. This thing has been fun so far — we had a very good introductory session with the state system’s new vice chancellor for admissions, Mike Dougherty; he’s really charismatic and seems like an awesome guy who knows his stuff, and then we moved into some breakout discussion sessions that I felt really ill-equipped to do much talking at. I have 10 pages of neatly-scribed notes, though, as per my usual conference habit. Another long day tomorrow, then a half-day Friday, and I get to make the trek back home.

The resort we’re at is pretty nice; we’re tucked in a valley by this stream out in the middle of absolute nowhere southeast Minnesota. No cell coverage, etc. But it’s pretty scenic and relaxing. No AC or anything like that, but I’ve got a perfectly nice ceiling fan.

What I’m Listening To
I gave “Born Villain,” the new Marilyn Manson album that I mentioned yesterday, a thorough listen in the car on the way down to this conference today; I may not listen to it as an album again (although I’m sure the tracks will occasionally pop up in random playlists). It just feels colossally boring and uninspired. Basically every song is structured exactly the same — a bass-heavy drum beat with bass over the top, and very little lead guitar, while Manson grunts slowly or whispers lyrics or whatever. “The Gardener” is essentially a spoken-word piece. The pattern changed up a little bit (not much; just a little bit) in the back half of the album, most notably on “Murderers are Getting Prettier Every Day” — and even that devolved into an unintelligible noise-fest about halfway through, but it was still a pretty constant stream of like-sounding, similarly-constructed songs.

The best song on the entire album is a cover of the 1972 Carly Simon hit, “You’re So Vain.” He rocks this song and makes it his own, and it holds up well with the other great covers Manson has done (think “Sweet Dreams,” “Personal Jesus,” and “Tainted Love”) but it’s incredibly disappointing that the highlight of the album is a cover.

Manson has a history of doing clever things with lyrics to twist new meanings into his songs – “mOBSCENE,” for instance, or “(s)AINT” (“hold the ‘s’ because I am an ‘ain’t’ — very clever). There’s some of that in this album – notably in “Pistol Whipped” which includes the lyric “I want to have your ache and beat you too,” a play on “have your cake and eat it too.” It’s overdone in the song, but it’s the kind of wordplay that’s missing from the rest of the album.

Nothing about this album hooked me. The title track, “Born Villain,” holds up well enough on its own, but it just gets lost in a sea of sameness when included in the album as a whole.

If the pattern holds, Marilyn Manson is now due for a very good album in about 2015.

What I’m Watching in June
Nothing, apparently.  I sat in a session at my conference today and followed the onslaught on Twitter — first shock and disbelief, then anger and rage, and finally just rampant disappointment and fear for the future of the brand at the news that Paramount has pushed back the opening of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from June 29 until March of 2013 so it can “add 3D for foreign markets.” In other words, Paramount is watching Battleship turn into one of the more hilarious flops of the year (nobody’s talking about John Carter now, that’s how bad it is for Battleship), and some suit panicked and pulled the plug on Retaliation — a movie that to a person G.I. Joe fans have been really, really, really excited about. Now, Hasbro has a toy line launching tomorrow to support the movie, and no movie to support the toy line. Retailers are likely to be extremely livid over this, and the chances of Retaliation figures lasting beyond the first two waves are basically zero. So, since Hasbro pulled the plug on the Renegades cartoon early so it could be retooled to support the movie storyline, G.I. Joe is effectively dead as a property until March. And the extremely positive momentum built up for the movie so far this year, since the unveiling of the first trailer on Machinima and the Super Bowl spot, will be impossible to replicate next year.

Ugly. The odds of me wanting to go see another Paramount release between now and the time that G.I. Joe is actually released are basically zero.

So, I bought the new Marilyn Manson album

What I’m Listening To
Last weekend I bought “Born Villain,” the latest album from Marilyn Manson. For about the last three albums now — dating back to “Eat Me, Drink Me” in 2007 — it has felt a little bit like I was buying Manson’s music just because I liked him once, and was hoping that something would be as great as “Mechanical Animals” (which is one of my favorite albums ever). He’s really been on an up-and-down cycle ever since Mechanical Animals — from there, down to “Holy Wood,” which was pretty average; back up to “Golden Age of the Grotesque,” which is fantastic; way, way down to “Eat Me, Drink Me,” which had basically one decent song (and I couldn’t even tell you offhand which one it was); back up to “High End of Low” in 2009, which I liked quite a bit, and now “Born Villain.”

The jury is still out on this, really; I’ve only listened to it a couple of times, and always as background noise. I have a road trip tomorrow that’s going to put me in the car for about seven hours, and I suspect I’ll give it a few run throughs when my only distraction is the road and Minnesota’s pine trees. I’m not expecting much really. It’s probably too harsh to call this the by-the-numbers “down” album at this point, but through those first few casual listens nothing hooked me. Full review when I’m done.

Where I’m Headed
Lanesboro, Minn., that’s where. I’m heading out early tomorrow morning (like 6 a.m. early) to make the 350-mile trek southward for a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities marketing and admissions conference for two-year colleges. As part of the university’s increasing alignment with Northwest Technical College, I’m making the trip representing NTC. I’m still learning about NTC, so I don’t know how much I will be able to contribute. But it will be good for me to meet people and see what kind of work they’re doing elsewhere in the system. It’s going to be a long three days with the drive down tomorrow and the drive back on Friday though.

More of an update later. It’s time for bed…

Three-word stories

For bedtime stories, I’ve been having Helen give me three random words, and I then improvise a story from those three words. Tonight’s words: fountain, Elvis, and naked. Here is the story I told:

Once upon a time, a very famous rock star named Elvis lived in a town called Memphis. He was very popular and everyone loved him. But what no one knew, when Elvis would eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches he would go completely insane.

One night, after a particularly stressful concert, Elvis returned to his mansion in Memphis called Graceland. And he went into the basement and ate 16 peanut butter and banana sandwiches, which made him go completely nuts. He ran outside and started yelling at all of the birds to go get jobs. He kicked a puppy six blocks. He threw a cat as far as he could. All of this made Elvis very tired, so he went to the fountain in the center of town. Once he got there, he jumped in and began to swim around. Then he climbed to the top of the statue in the center of the fountain and began to yell at the birds again. Then he took one final peanut butter and banana sandwich out of his jumpsuit and ate it; this pushed Elvis completely over the edge, and he was now totally insane. He began to yell like Tarzan, and then he stripped completely naked and jumped back into the fountain. He swam and swam and swam as fast as he could until he was so tired he just fell asleep. He slept in the fountain until his family came to pick him up and take him back to Graceland.

Once his family got him home, they tucked him into bed so he could get a good night’s sleep before his next concert.

The end!

Social Broadcasting

During the day at work, I post random things that enter my head as updated Facebook statuses, and I also update Twitter between one and two dozen times on a typical weekday. I don’t get to this blog nearly as often. Twitter is wide open, but my Facebook posts are almost always limited to friends. Basically, if you were only following this blog you might not think I’m very active — and, in the grand scheme of things compared with people who have several thousand subscribers on Facebook and upwards of 20,000 tweets, I’m not. But, I am more active than this blog might indicate. So I’m going to try a new plugin that will feed updates from here to Facebook. This still won’t catch everything that goes from my phone to Facebook, etc., but it might be a way to bridge some of the gap between content on Facebook and content here.

This new plugin should allow you to use your Facebook or Twitter accounts to log in and comment, if you’re interested in that.

Saturday Night is For Fighting

Not really. Saturday has been for partying, really. They’re all gone now, but we’ve had people over basically all day. Both of them brought their daughters who are about Helen’s age, so the girls partied in the back yard most of the day, and right now Helen is still in the basement winding down and watching “Tangled.” I’ll have to go check on her soon to see if she’s asleep.

We braved some rain and hit up a couple of garage sales this morning; in typical fashion, everybody found some little things to come away with except for me (not that I’m complaining). Helen’s big score was a bag of about 450 Pokemon cards for two bucks. She’s caught the Pokemon bug, and we keep trying to find time to learn how to play the card game while Millie isn’t around to jump into the middle of things and start throwing cards all over the room. Still want to make sure we can do that somehow; the game plays into several of the things that are likely to get me hooked on it — namely, collecting things, and strategizing how to use available cards to build a game deck. I’m sure I’ll have fun playing the game with her once we get into it.

What I’m Drawing
I put out a call on Facebook this morning asking people to request drawings; I bought a pack of 15 blank postcards when I was at Blick’s in Minneapolis last weekend. I thought it’d be fun to get them and have people ask me to draw something for them, and then mail it to them. I had a couple of people that I just wanted to send something to, so they got on the list, but even so I had enough responses in a couple of hours to occupy all 15 cards with a few left over. I’ll have to buy a second package of them if I can find ’em and make sure everybody who asked for one gets something.  It seemed like a fun, tangible project that could force me to draw; I drew four days this week, which for me is pretty good. I need to find actual things to draw instead of just dinking around in my sketchbook, though.

All for now.


What I’m Reading/Watching
I have started filling in the void on my Geek Card that is occupied by “A Game of Thrones.” I picked up the hardcover trade of the first half-dozen issues of the comic series and read through that; I read the first couple of chapters of the novel; and I’ve watched the first two episodes of the HBO series (which essentially mirrors the events of that comic trade).

The comic was a tough read; I bought it for Tommy Patterson’s art, because I’ve been following him on Twitter for awhile and he’s a great guy. But it suffers from the same thing a lot of modern comics suffer from, in that it never telegraphs scene changes. You are on one page with one set of characters in one location, and you turn the page and find another set of characters in another location with no warning that the setting has changed. All it would take is a narrator’s box in the upper left-hand corner of the first panel that says “Name of New Location,” and you’re off to the races. But a lot of comic books today ignore this.

The show’s OK — I don’t love it, but I don’t dislike it enough to quit on it after only two episodes. Peter Dinklage, who plays a dwarf named Tyrion Lannister, is really the highlight of the series, and he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time as the show bounces around between the myriad settings and sets of characters.

I’m maybe 20 pages into the book only; not enough to have an opinion on it yet.

What I’m Touring
I got a chance to go check out Northwest Technical College’s Sustainable Environment Technology Center today; they have combined elements of their home construction, plumbing/HVAC and metalworking programs to teach students how to install things like residential solar panels, small wind, geothermal heating systems and other high-efficiency, sustainable home energy sources. It was pretty awesome, and it briefly resurrected the part of me that long ago thought it was going to make me into a mechanical engineer. I took a bunch of pictures on Twitter; you can check those out. Really fun tour.

What I’m Playing
Diablo III came out Tuesday. I’ve put about four hours into it already; servers weren’t cooperative last night, so I didn’t play as much as I kinda wanted to. It’s fun – run around and explode things. I’m looking forward to playing more with Mel.

I’ve also been playing the Avengers game on Facebook, but I think I’m out. They added what they call a “special operation” that you could farm mercilessly and eventually earn the right to unlock Mockingbird; on the surface that seems awesome, and I was going to try it. But they added a ridiculous fifth kind of currency to the game, and require that currency to do each of the fights in a mission. Basically, it seems almost impossible to contemplate having enough of that currency available for the fights in the operation, and be able to repeat those fights enough times to earn “mastery” on each level, within the timeframe allowed without using actual dollars to buy the currency. There’s no way that’s happening. So the game now seems pretty pointless.

Birchbox and comics — a pretty solid combination

What I’m Buying
I actually got this on Monday; I signed up for a three-month trial to Birchbox. This was a total impulse buy; it just seemed silly and fun to get a little box full of unknown loots in the mail every month. The first box came with a pair of really nice green and blue Richer Poorer socks, a trial size bottle of Zirh shave gel (which I’ve actually used for years), a bar of this Kiehl’s soap, and some Billy Jealousy facial cleanser. Super-fun. I’m curious now to see what sort of goodies I get next month…

What I’m Reading
Tons of good stuff today. Tons. Batman #9 continues the Court of the Owls storyline, as a weakened Batman tries to flush the Court’s Talon assassins out of the Batcave; this entire series has been comic book brilliance, and today’s issue was absolutely no exception. It’s incredibly well-written, and Greg Capullo’s just been in the zone on the art for all 198 pages so far. It’s one of four DC books I’m still buying after my experiment to try out around half of DC’s New 52, and as long as the creative team of Scott Snyder and Capullo stays together, it’s getting my four bucks a month. I just love it. G.I. Joe #13 came out today as well, and I wrote a review of it last night for The Terrordrome. Just read this morning’s post; it sucked and I really don’t have much more to say about it.

The two digital comics I buy also both came out today — Invincible #91 and Morning Glories #18. Both of those were really good as well. Invincible also ends with a great cliffhanger, as we discover that the Viltrumite scourge virus meant to kill Mark might have altered him in noticeable — and exceptionally painful — ways. And there really aren’t enough good things to say about Morning Glories at this point; it’s just now a year and a half old, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever picked up. The story is phenomenal; Joe Eisma’s art is gorgeous. This is just a fantastic comic.

I’m also a couple of weeks behind on this, but I finally got the second issue of the Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples collaboration, Saga, today as well (two bucks on iPad — I freaking love digital comics). This series is amazing. Absolutely fantastic. The premise is simple enough — boy soldier from Army A falls for girl soldier from Army B, resulting in child C; powerful people who don’t like that they’ve combined forces send assassins to kill them. So they run. Vaughan’s using a really clever narrative trick to drive the story along, and Staples’ art is just flat-out beautiful. The full-page cliffhanger splash at the end of the second issue is just a genius comic book page; based on how the issue progressed, the ending is nothing you would expect in a million years, and visually it’s just stunning. Fantastic page.

I am really enjoying the fact that I am to the point that I absolutely love everything I’m buying now. So fun.

Who I’m Following
There has been a bunch of research regarding social media that says people tend to surround themselves with people who share similar opinions on political issues, and that despite the infinite ability of the Internet to connect people of every imaginable viewpoint, people tend to freeze out those who don’t agree with them. I’m really finding that I am exactly the opposite. After today’s news that President Obama came out and explicitly supported gay marriage, the reaction from my social media circles has been overwhelmingly and basically exclusively positive. I’m not sure I have seen anything from any of the people I follow on Twitter or are friends with on Facebook that has come out and complained about the position. The only remotely anti-Obama things I’ve seen today have been obvious jokes on Twitter, really. I think I have a diverse group of people that I’m following; it could be that is not true, or that the people who lean to the left just tend to be far more vocal. And, it could just be that the right-leaning people who are vocal (and I do follow some) just haven’t felt like commenting about this. Whatever the reason, the overwhelming one-sidedness of the reaction stood out.

As for this particular announcement — for those who are pursuing this right (and they should be; the 14th Amendment, equal protection under the law, First Amendment, religious freedom (and this is a religious issue, and only a religious issue), all of that) what the President said today is a shot in the arm. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, right now it’s meaningless. North Carolina is passing constitutional amendments banning it; Minnesota’s trying to do the same thing. There’s no possible way the federal government passes anything; the Supreme Court doesn’t seem to be touching it. It’s a feather in the cap, for sure, but, functionally, nothing seems as if it will actually change any time soon.

What I’m Studying
Grades are posted for both of my spring courses at Winona State; I have officially completed my first year of grad school with a 4.0.

Comic review: G.I. Joe #13 (IDW)

G.I. Joe #13
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art: Will Rosado
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Neil Uyetake

Cover A: Wil Rosado, with colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Cover B: Wil Rosado, with colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Cover RIA: Tommy Lee Edwards
Cover RIB: Tommy Lee Edwards

G.I. Joe #13 is another setup story for what is shaping up to be a Snake Eyes-centric story arc. Snake Eyes has reassured Hard Master that his mission to rejoin the Arashikage has a higher purpose, and in this issue an event occurs that surely will aide in his motivation to destroy Cobra from the inside.

We also are re-introduced to Copperback, an interesting sidebar Cobra agent from Season One who had a decent-sized role in the MASS Device storyline; and get a look at what Dr. Mindbender is currently overseeing for Cobra. His punishment for participating in the coup attempt against Cobra Commander at the end of the Cobra Command storyline has been to be put in charge of a mining operation in South America.

This issue gets off to a rough start; the first three pages are wasted on the deaths of two characters who have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of this issue, and certainly not on any overall plot arc involving Mindbender and Scarlett. They weren’t even killed in a way that served to develop a new character named Urso, a new Cobra agent introduced by Dixon as the overseeer of the prisoners Cobra is using for labor in the mine.

In fact, introducing Urso at all seems like an odd decision when there are dozens of existing Cobra agents from the toy line who could’ve been introduced here; this character easily could’ve been somebody like Metal Head, or, at long last, Firefly. Even though Major Bludd was introduced as a prison overseeer during season one, it seems as if that well could’ve been tapped again. Having his underlings prove themselves by overseeing mining operations seems very much to be Cobra Commander’s style.

The Joes, of course, receive intel that reveals the existence of Cobra’s operation, and off Bravo Team goes to investigate. Scarlett gets to be tough and show she’s in control by leading an unsanctioned op; Mainframe gets to sneak along, jump out of an airplane and play a fun game of Blue’s Clue while he talks out loud to the reader and pretends to be a field agent. In the end, of course, nothing goes as planned for Team Bravo, and just like that we’ve got added motivation for Snake Eyes.

Coming immediately on the heels of a poor outing for Snake Eyes #12, the series seems to be stumbling out of the gates in its followup to Cobra Command. While Snake Eyes #12 existed entirely for Snake Eyes to deliver a message to Hard Master that he knew what he was doing and had a plan when he agreed to rejoin Storm Shadow and the Arashikage, this one exists entirely for Scarlett to get captured.

Will Rosado has done better. Scarlett is… chunky in her first few panels where you can see her entire torso; and not in an Eve-from-Invincible way. She’s got a normal head, but Rosado just completely blows the torso. She’s back to normal by page 18. The panel of the Viper in the Trouble Bubble on Page 3 should’ve been zoomed out a little, also; the way it’s drawn you might think it’s shooting bullets out of its lights, and zooming out would have minimized how badly the Viper’s head was drawn. The scenes of Bravo Team jumping out of the plane are nice, and the shot of Dr. Mindbender walking over the mine shaft does a nice job of giving some sense to the scale of Cobra’s operation.

It would also be interesting to know if there’s a guideline for when to use Vipers with the ’86-style helmets and when to use Vipers with the IDW-style helmets we saw throughout Season One. They’re both used here.

The A and B covers are both done by Will Rosado, and are part of a six-cover series running across all three IDW G.I. Joe books this month. The two for this issue feature solo illustrations of Duke, on the A cover, and Roadblock, on the B cover, on white with no backgrounds and a gold foil logo. Both are solid images featuring classic-looking uniforms, and the Cover B featuring Roadblock is the better of the two. The only thing that would improve it would be a significantly bigger machine gun.

Snake Eyes and Cobra will get similar treatment later this month.

Rosado has uncolored versions of both covers up on his Blogspot blog.

This month’s issue has two retailer-incentive covers; the A incentive is a very sketchy image of Scarlett drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards. The B cover is a black and white version of the A cover, but zoomed in on Scarlett’s head. The more time I spent with these, the more I liked them — particularly the full-size, colored A version.

Tommy Lee Edwards on Twitter.

The Terrordrome has a preview of G.I. Joe #13 here.