Archive for November, 2009

Heavy Metal Thunder

Wow, I am really, really late to the party with this one, but I love heavy metal, I loved their first album, so I really think I’d better get with it and review this one.

Dethalbum II by Dethklok

Let’s recap: Cartoon Network runs a late-night programming block called “Adult Swim,” devoted to more grown-up cartoons like “Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law,” “The Venture Brothers,” and “Robot Chicken.” One of their recent hits has been “Metalocalypse,” a show created by Brendan Small and Tommy Blacha, focuses on death metal band called Dethklok, which is, amazingly and awesomely, the most popular musical act in the world, with the 12th largest economy in the world, billions of insanely devoted fans, and the menacing attentions of world leaders terrified of their influence.

The band members include brooding lead singer Nathan Explosion, Swedish guitarist Skwisgaar Skwigelf (the fastest guitarist in the world), Norwegian guitarist Toki Wartooth (the second-fastest guitarist in the world), self-loathing bassist William Murderface, and balding, dreadlocked drummer, Pickles. That’s all, just Pickles. The entire show parodies heavy metal, but it’s very affectionate parody — metal fans and musicians love this show, and a lot of performers — band members from Metallica to Cannibal Corpse — have signed on to do short, silly cameos in the cartoon.

Well, a couple years ago, Dethklok released an album called “Dethalbum.” Yes, a fictional band releasing a real CD. Most of the music was provided by Brendan Smalls, with Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel, Death, and Strapping Young Lad working the drums. It was a fantastic album, and it was actually the highest-charting death metal album ever. Smalls and Hoglan even took a few other musicians on the road, performing (behind a screen) as Dethklok in live shows.

So now they’ve made a sequel — “Dethalbum II.” Smalls again provides all the vocals, guitars, and keyboards, with Hoglan back on board as drummer. It didn’t beat the first album’s record showing on the charts, but its respectable showing would seem to indicate that there’s still a lot of goodwill for Dethklok among the world’s metalheads (and Adult Swim fans, who probably picked up quite a few themselves).

Is the sequel as good as the original “Dethalbum”? No, probably not. The first record benefitted from having some of the band’s best-known songs from the cartoon series, including “Birthday Dethday,” “Awaken,” and the epic “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle.” The new album doesn’t have any songs of that caliber.

The new album is also a lot less funny, with a ton more emphasis being placed on pure metal. This actually ends up harming it in comparison to the first one, because a lot of what made it stand out was the gleeful lunacy of a band that sang about how much they hate their fans, about murderous mermaids, about Vikings who get lost because they won’t ask anyone for directions.

The original “Dethalbum” had song titles like “Bloodrocuted,” “Briefcase Full of Guts,” and “Hatredcopter” — and while those are fairly silly titles, they’re also absolutely true to the death-metal spirit. The new album’s titles are relatively tame in comparison, with the notable exception of “I Tamper with the Evidence at the Murder Site of Odin,” which is an epic and fantastic title for a song that, while pretty darned good, isn’t really epic or fantastic.

Is this a bad album? Absolutely not. Again, it’s a vastly more metal album, and if you love heavy metal, that’s great news. Lots of the songs here are great rockers — “Bloodlines,” “The Gears,” “They Cyborg Slayers,” and “Murmaider II: The Water God” are some of my personal favorites and are guaranteed — like, to be honest, most of the other tracks here — to get your head banging good and hard. Smalls’ devotion to heavy metal thunder is pitch-perfect, and Hoglan is a monster on the drums — if you can stop thrashing around for a few minutes to actually listen to him, he’s a revelation. If the cartoon Pickles can drum anywhere near as awesomely as the real-world Hoglan, Dethklok isn’t paying the dude near enough.

So it’s not as good as the first album — big deal. Being almost as good as the most popular death-metal album ever is still pretty fantastic. “Dethalbum II” is a brutal, merciless, metal-clad fist-to-the-face, and you should go out and buy it.

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Any Excuse for a Linkdump


It’s been a while since we’ve had a good old-fashioned linkdump, so let’s see what’s been taking up space in my browser:

Hope that’ll keep you guys happily clicking and reading for a few hours…

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Busting Stuff Up


Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #17

Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are called out to the scene of a disaster in a small town — the entire population seemingly went insane and began trying to kill each other. One of the survivors that they find is none other than Susan Storm, the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four — and she immediately begins attacking everyone! After she’s finally subdued, she reverts back to normal and is able to shed some light on the situation. She’d been in town on Fantastic Four business when some sort of creature appeared and somehow drove everyone into a violent rage. Suspecting that the creature was some sort of artificial construct or android, they calkl in the most advanced android they know, the Vision, who scans the available evidence and discovers that an immortal alchemist supervillain named Diablo was also in the town at the time of the attack. What’s his connection to all this, and can the team stop another disaster in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Interesting choice of team members — Cap, Iron Man, Thor, and the Vision weren’t unexpected for something that resembled an Avengers story, but Sue Storm, without the rest of the FF, was an unusual choice. Still, it worked out well, with a nice, bizarre mystery and a stronger air of menace than you might expect from an all-ages comic.


Justice Society of America #32

Mr. Terrific has died on the operating table, but Alan Scott is using his Green Lantern ring to stop time for him so Dr. Fate will have a chance of using magic to revive him. The investigation into who stabbed him is still inconclusive — they’ve finally realized that the All-American Kid was being mind-controlled, but they suspect Kid Chimera, whose specialty is illusions, not telepathy. Meanwhile, the gang of supervillains who attacked the JSA before is back for more mayhem.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This is just not fun, and it’s being drawn out much, much too long.

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Friday Night Fights: Presidential Pain!

Another Friday evening is upon us, and that means it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today, we’re heading for 2007’s Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, as Dr. 13, the vampiric Andrew Bennett, and a talking Nazi gorilla take on a giant Mount Rushmore monster! So how do you defeat a giant Mount Rushmore monster when all you’ve got is a vampire, a gorilla, and an atheist college professor?




Looks like you don’t.

Hope y’all have a better weekend than that…

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Dead Beetle


Booster Gold #26

While Booster goes back in time to watch himself fail to give Ted Kord, his best friend and the second Blue Beetle, a proper eulogy after he died, the Blackest Night is running wild in the rest of the DC Universe. And the latest Black Lantern zombie is Ted Kord himself. He ends up attacking Skeets, Jaime Reyes, Daniel Carter (Booster’s ancestor), and Daniel’s girlfriend Rose. By the time Booster makes it back to the present, Ted is thoroughly trashing everyone else. Does Booster stand a chance?

Verdict: Thumbs up. For a “Blackest Night” tie-in, most of the emphasis here was on character issues, particularly Booster’s continuing sorrow about Ted’s death and his ongoing resentment about the shabby treatment he and Ted received from most of the rest of the superhero community over the years.


Secret Six #15

It’s an all-Deadshot issue, and it’s written by John Ostrander, writer of the most acclaimed run of DC’s “Suicide Squad” ever. Floyd is feeling the urge to go on a thoroughly random killing spree, just for the fun of it. He has a long chat with a preacher buddy of his and tells at least part of his origin — spoiled rich kid of a couple of deeply dysfunctional parents, he attended a costume party at Wayne Manor with a plan to use hired thugs to rob the guests — instead, he ended up being the hero of the evening after shooting one of his own men. He roleplays as a hero for a while, all the while taking protection money from Gotham City’s gangs, but he eventually gets taken down by Batman. Does his past hold the key to let Deadshot get control of his homicidal urges?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good, murderous fun. Nice focus on Deadshot and all the weird quirks that make him tick. His origin is great, too, and it’s cool that Bruce Wayne is the only person at the party who catches onto the obscure film that Floyd based his costume on. Gee, they should let John Ostrander and Jim Calafiore make more comics, don’tcha think?

North 40 #5

I really thought this miniseries was over already? I’m a nut, that’s what I am. In this issue, a bunch of mutated EMS workers are trying to sacrifice some people to raise a malevolent god from the crater in the middle of town, but Amanda and some of the other local mystically-transformed folks are able to save them. The mayor is on a rampage because his son has been bitten by zombies, and he wants Sheriff Morgan and his new deputy, the indestructible Wyatt Hinkle to pay for it. Denny Pittman’s giant robot and his superpowered kids interfere, and Wyatt has a vision of the chubby nerd who helped cause all the trouble in Conover County — while his goth friend is trying to make things worse by creating more monsters, he’s trying to improve things by creating new heroes. But is there too much chaos going on for anyone to keep control of?

Verdict: Another thumbs up. I am so glad this series isn’t finished yet. Great dialogue, lots of wonderful and bizarre characters. And hey, Sheriff Morgan, the only normal guy in town, may not be so normal after all. One more issue to go…

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Strange Sports Stories


Strange #1

Stephen Strange is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme, but that gives him the freedom to go out an enjoy a baseball game. Well, by “enjoy,” I really mean “try to keep everyone in the ballpark from being sucked into Hell, thanks to a decades-old deal-with-a-demon and a bunch of demon-possessed baseball players.” And worse, Strange doesn’t have the towering mystic might he used to, forcing him to rely on Casey Kinmont, the granddaughter of the ballclub owner. Casey has some magical talent, but no training — can Strange talk her through the spells he needs her to cast? And if that isn’t enough, will he be able to score a home run against a bunch of demonic ballplayers?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s worth the price just for the image of Dr. Strange, decked out in a grubby jacket and ballcap, hair messed up, and a plate of nachos splattered all over his shirt, dishing out trash talk, and bellowing at the umps. Clearly, more superheroes should go to baseball games.


Batman and Robin #6

Well, I think that’s the most colorful cover I’ve ever seen on the cover of any Batman comic, except maybe for the old “Rainbow Batman” cover from the ’60s.

Well, the Red Hood (better known as Jason Todd) and his sidekick Scarlet have captured Batman and Robin, tied ’em up, stripped ’em to their skivvies, and set up a webcam to reveal their secret identities to the world. Unfortunately, that means Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne aren’t available to help when Red Hood and Scarlet get ambushed by a flamboyant and violently insane assassin named Eduardo Flamingo, who very easily trashes both of them. And even after Batman and Robin make their escape and join the battle, Flamingo still manages to pitch Batman off a building and shoot Robin several times in the back. How will they stop Flamingo? And is there any hope left for Jason and Scarlet?

Verdict: Mostly a thumbs up. The stakes are entertainingly raised with Damian’s gunshot wounds and possible paralysis — oh, we know it won’t be permanent, since Grant Morrison’s previous story about Damian’s future reveals that he sells his soul for healing powers. The possible end of Scarlet’s storyarc is very interesting, but I’m looking forward to hearing what actually becomes of her. Damian’s stupid gay slur about Flamingo’s costume is, well, stupid, in more ways than one. But if any kid deserved to get shot in the back multiple times after doing the “sneering homophobic teen buttwipe” thing, it’s definitely Damian.


Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #5

Grey and the Captain have gone to Bedlam to seek the aid of a mad sorcerer named Martin Gilfryd to stop the rampage of the demonic horror terrorizing London. Gilfryd manages to use the monster’s ancient bones to give it back a physical body, meaning Sir Edward finally has a chance to kill the thing. But even with the creature destroyed, there are still many dangers and perils ahead. Can Sir Edward survive them all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, creepy magic, great suspense, and lots of weird stuff. A bit of a heartbreaking ending, but it’s a perfect fit for this overall grim story.

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Labors of Hercules


The Incredible Hercules #137

This issue focuses on Amadeus Cho, Hercules’ former sidekick and the seventh smartest person in the world, in his struggle against Pythagoras Depree, the sixth smartest person in the world. In fact, a lot of it is told in flashback, as we learn about what happened the day Amadeus learned he was a super-genius and his parents were killed. We also get a short life history of Dupree, an abused orphan who was briefly championed by Athena, goddess of wisdom. And finally, Dupree challenges Amadeus to one final game — the winner gets to walk away with the knowledge that he’s the smartest. The loser doesn’t get to walk away at all. Can Amadeus hope to prevail?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and dialogue. Nice manipulations by Athena, but that’s what we expect from gods, right? Brilliant game-playing strategy by Amadeus, too. All-around wonderful issue.


Assault on New Olympus #1

And the followup brings Hercules and Amadeus back together, though they’re still not seeing eye-to-eye. Hera is running a giant megacorp called the Olympus Group, and she’s crazy enough to have decided that she wants to destroy the world so another, more awful god can’t do it instead. The monkeywrench that gets thrown into the works is Hebe, the goddess of youth and the long-neglected wife of Hercules — she’s working at a homeless shelter run by Aunt May, and she’s off on a date with Peter Parker! But when Herc finds out abou the date, he’s not happy, and Spider-Man isn’t really tough enough to go toe-to-toe with a god. And in the backup story, the Agents of Atlas try to prevent the mentally dominated Venus from leading multitudes of hypnotized people into the mouth of a horrific squid-god named Phorcys.

Verdict: Another thumbs up. Basically, this is a bonus issue of “Hercules,” so if you love that comic — and you should — then you’ll love this one, too. The one-sided battle between Herc and Spidey is pretty amusing, though you gotta wonder if a notorious womanizer like Herc would really get so bent out of shape about his wife, who he hadn’t seen in 3,000 years, kissing someone. And the Agents of Atlas story is also pretty good, with Phorcys making a truly horrific opponent.

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Samurai Smash!


Strange Tales #3

I had very high hopes for this one, especially with that outstanding cover by Stan Sakai, creator of “Usagi Yojimbo,” who also contributed the lead story, about an ancient Japanese warrior transformed into a raging green demon by a witch named Gama. But the rest of the stories here are, at best, unimpressive (Peter Bagge’s conclusion of “The Incorrigible Hulk,” Paul Hornschemeier’s talky “battle” between Nightcrawler and the Molecule Man, Jay Stephens’ entirely pedestrian set-up of the Beast vs. Morbius the Living Vampire) and at worst, outright stupid (Corey Lewis’ dayglo Longshot-as-a-club-dork story, Jonathan Jay Lee’s pointless and muddy Punisher story, and Chris Chua’s entirely incomprehensible… I really don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but it goes on for four pages).

Verdict: As bad as the rest of it was, I’m still giving this a thumbs up, solely because of that awesome Stan Sakai Hulk story, which is beautifully illustrated, cleverly thought-out, and extremely entertaining. This miniseries hasn’t been a bad experiment in letting alternate comics creators play around in the Marvel Universe, and it’s certainly an excellent way for readers to discover new creators that they wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.


Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #9

An arsonist is trying to burn up the city, but the more perplexing crisis seems to be Captain Marvel’s sudden personality change — he’s turned into a colossal jerk! He insults his friends and family, snubs kids in wheelchairs, ignores the arson crisis, and endangers normal people. What’s going on? And is there anyway to stop Cap before he goes too far?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very interesting mystery, with cute illustrations and storytelling to go with it.


Wonder Woman #37

I missed an issue somewhere down the line, so some of this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Diana gets a visit in her dreams from Ares, God of War, who Wonder Woman killed a few issues back by splitting his skull with an axe. Back on Themyscira, Achilles is romancing one of Wonder Woman’s mortal enemies, the island is plagued by numerous mysterious virgin pregnancies, and Artemis has returned a lost tribe of Amazons home. When Wonder Woman decides to return to Themyscira, she’ll have to battle one of her best friends to make her homecoming.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Even considering that I missed an issue, this didn’t make much sense at all. I know all the Paradise Island stuff is supposed to be important to Wonder Woman, but I’m kinda getting tired of hearing about it all the time. Couldn’t Wonder Woman go bust up some criminals sometime?

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Comic Con Aftermath

Well, I didn’t go to the Comic Con. I have a good excuse — I live five hours away. But I’m wishing I got to go now, ’cause the pictures in the A-J’s Spotted section look like everyone had a lot of fun.

Looks like the folks in the costumes were out in force. The guys from Abilene’s 501st Legion were in the house — they brought Darth Vader and everything…


No, wait, that’s not Vader. Here’s Vader — he’s a little short, but see how he bends Stormtroopers to his will…


There was a guy dressed as Jack “Starman” Knight, complete with a homemade cosmic staff, which is pretty awesome.


There were kids dressed as Cyclops, Storm, and possibly, Captain Pike from Classic Star Trek.


There was this guy, who was apparently supposed to be Optimus Monkey.


And here’s Ballerina Spider-Girl and Black Hand.


Let me emphasize this — some parent dressed their child as a murderous zombie Black Lantern. That parent is the most awesome parent in the universe.

And here’s one of my favorite pix.


I love these photos of parents bringing their kids out to see the costumes and pick up some comics. It’s what events like the Comic Con are all about.

Here’s to the next Comic Con — I should have my vacation hours worked out by then, so I’ll definitely get to be at the next one…

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Comic Con, Comic Con, Comic Con!


The West Texas Comic Con is today!

Head down to the Science Spectrum, 2579 S. Loop 289, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.! Tickets are cheap — just four bucks for adults, two dollars for kids 12 and under, and dead solid free for toddlers and anyone wearing a costume!

There’s lots of stuff happening, like:

  • 10:30 a.m.: “How to Read Comics” by Rob Weiner!
  • 11:30 a.m.: Writers workshop and panel, featuring Matthew Sturges, Dirk Strangely, Josh Howard, Scott Zirkel, and Paul Benjamin, hosted by Will Terrell!
  • 12:30 p.m.: Registration for the costume contest starts, leading inevitably to…
  • 1 p.m.: The Costume Contest!
  • 2 p.m.: Twitchy Dolphin independent film panel, featuring their movie “Funny Books”!
  • 3 p.m.: DC  Fan Panel with Matt Sturges!
  • 4 p.m.: Comics game show! With prizes!

There are tons of special guests, tons of exhibitors, tons of artists, tons of vendors, tons of great people — this is gonna be more fun, for less money, than you’re gonna comfortably believe.

Here’s the Comic Con’s official website! Here’s my article for the A-J! (Yes, I’ll probably be linking that in every blog post from now on)

Come on, folks, it’s a bye weekend for Tech football, so you got no excuses! Git down there or I’m whuppin’ on you with a truck axle!

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