30 December 2016

Christmas Special

Merry Christmas to all of you out in blogland. I've been on a whirlwind trip to see my/my wife's family-- one day of travel, two full days with one family, another day of travel, two full days with another family, and then another day of travel. It's always good to come home, of course, and one wishes we could do it more often; geography keeps us at about three times per year except for extenuating circumstances. In six months, we might live somewhere different, and this might make it easier to come home frequently, but it might also make it worse.

Travel logistics meant that for the first time in my entire life, I had to miss my extended family's Christmas Eve get-together-- at which I usually play a key role as emcee of the Yankee swap gift exchange! But even aside from that, it was sad to not spend the holiday with my grandmother and aunts and uncles and cousins and cousins' kids. Instead (for reasons too complicated and too stupid to explain) my wife and I spent Christmas Eve in a diner in Athens, Ohio. Thankfully, some traditions remain intact (watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, eating Christmas dinner with my family and my grandmother, even if it wasn't on Christmas), and some new ones seem to be forming (my wife is making headway in her attempts to make Weihnachtsstollen an annual thing).

Of course, there's been a lot of presents as always. Highlights have included a cocktail set from my wife, a Death Star that dispenses jelly beans from my brother- and sister-in-law, a Star Trek redshirt hoodie from my mother, soundtrack CDs from my mother-in-law, socks from my father-in-law, and many many books. Here's some of them:
As you can see, I netted all of the Ancillary books, which I've been yearning after for a while; I feel like I never read enough current science fiction. (I asked for recent sf from SantaThing; I haven't got my SantaThing books yet, so hopefully I didn't also get the Ancillary books there!) I also got a whole mess of books for my project to read more fiction set in my hometown of Cincinnati-- six of them to be precise.

Just looking at them, my favorite is The Serpentine Wall, a mystery novel by a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Serpentine Wall is a bit of a local landmark, a long, snakey wall on the Ohio River with huge steps:

It's the best place to watch Cincinnati's fantastic river-based Labor Day fireworks. Some of the Cincinnati novels I've read haven't felt very Cincinnati-y; I'm anticipating good things from this one.

On the other hand, I'm a little dubious about Seventeen Blocks from the River. For one thing, I'm the only person to own a copy on LibraryThing, which means it's even more obscure than The Picshuas of H. G. Wells. Secondly, this is its author blurb:

I mean, single out your one son for being adopted and Jewish, that won't make him feel weird at all.  Also, "a leaf in the wind"???

It's getting late, so I'll wrap this up. Incidentally, a Merry Christmas to all of you at home, and remember to keep Christmas with you all through the year!

29 December 2016

Review: The Third Man by Graham Greene

Trade paperback, 157 pages
Published 1999 (originally 1950)

Acquired and previously read January 2007
Reread September 2014
The Third Man by Graham Greene
"What about views on the American novel?"
     "I don't read them," Martins said. (17-8)
Even though this is probably a novella, I knew I wanted to teach it in my class on The Modern Novel. Like many novels I am obsessed with, it is itself about novels: the protagonist is Rollo Martins, a writer of paperback westerns who discovers that actual conflicts between good and evil are not so much like the ones he writes about every day. As a result, there's a lot of meditation here on knowledge: how do we know things and where does our knowledge come from? I see a lot of resonance between The Third Man and the later Justine; I guess it's no coincidence I read them in the same course as an undergraduate, or I taught them together myself.

Martins's emotional knowledge conflicts with the well-researched factual knowledge of Cab Calloway. Martins says, "I don't suppose anyone knows Harry [Lime] the way I do," causing Calloway to meditate, "I thought of the thick file of agents' reports in my office, each claiming the same thing" (27). Martins means 'as well as I do,' but there's a second sense you could take it in: that Martins's way of knowing Lime is distinct from all other ways of knowing Lime, and two pages later, Calloway thinks, "It was odd how like the Lime he knew was to the Lime I knew: it was only that he looked at Lime's image from a different angle or in a different light" (29). Martins is always meeting people whose views of Lime conflict with his, and he doesn't know how to deal with this. Lime's girlfriend Anna suggests to Martins, "There are always so many things one doesn’t know about a person, even a person one loves—good things, bad things. We have to leave plenty of room for them.… [S]top making people in your image. Harry was real. He wasn’t just your hero and my lover. He was Harry. He was in a racket. He did bad things. What about it? He was the man we knew.… [A] man doesn’t alter because you find out more about him. He’s still the same man" (114-15).

Some would say that the detective story—especially in its quintessential, Sherlock Holmes style—suggests that truth is a findable, achievable, objective phenomenon, but that’s not what’s up in The Third Man: all truth is mediated, through time, through personality, and we can never have access to the whole thing. Anna argues this is okay, but Martins seems to believe it’s something to be mourned. And, indeed, Martins doesn't solve his epistemological dilemma by reconciling or even acknowledging his way of knowing was unsophisticated; rather, he kills Lime, allowing him to return to his old paperback-style worldview. Lime threatened it, but Lime has been destroyed.

A subplot concerns Crabbin, a literary snob who accidentally invites Martins (whose pen name is "Buck Dexter") to speak to his literary society instead of the literary novelist he meant to bring (Benjamin Dexter). It's a source of good jokes, but it means more; Calloway closes the novel with a reflection on Crabbin, of all people: "Poor Crabbin. Poor all of us when you come to think of it" (157). No one is ever who you think they are. The story is mediated through Calloway to make sure we get this, to make sure we understand that the world is vastly more complicated than we can ever understand. Most of the characters in The Third Man, like Crabbin and Anna, know that they do not have the world solved, that any way of understanding life is only a fiction-- except for the one who writes fiction.
What a strange world unknown to most of us lies under our feet. (148)

28 December 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LVII: The World of Flashpoint featuring Batman

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2016
The World of Flashpoint featuring Batman

Writers: Brian Azzarello, J. T. Krul, Jimmy Palmiotti, Peter Milligan
Artists: Eduardo Risso, Fabrizio Fiorentino, Mikel Janin, Alejandro Giraldo, Joe Bennett, Tony Shasteen, Alex Massacci, John Dell, George Pérez, Fernando Blanco, Scott Koblish
Colorists: Patricia Mulvihill, Ulises Arreola, Kyle Ritter, Ander Zarate, the Hories, Tom Smith, Brian Buccellato
Letterers: Clem Robins, Patrick Brosseau, Dave Sharpe, Travis Lanham, Rob Leigh

I don't know if these World of Flashpoint books are getting better or if I'm just acclimating to their style and purpose, but I think this volume was the best of them so far. It doesn't have the best individual story in it (that's probably "Project Superman"), but it has three decently enjoyable tales and only one real dud. The reading sequence I devised/picked/was given continues to work well, too: the Booster Gold story in the previous volume alluded to the fact that there was something not right about this timeline's Batman, and in this volume we get to see what that is.

If you thought Batman was grumpy, wait until you see his alternate universe Batman dad.
from Flashpoint: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1 (script by Brian Azzarello, art by Eduardo Risso)

"Knight of Vengeance" is a gritty noir tale from Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. Azzarello excels as this kind of thing. I'm not sure there was really a story here, but it provides an effective series of snapshots of this universe's Batman and Joker, who manage to be even more broken than those of the primary timeline. We see Batman's crime-fighting empire and criminal(!) empire, his relationship with Jim Gordon (yay!), and the dark twisted night that changed everything for him. Batman alludes to the existence of the primary timeline in a conversation with the Joker; I suppose I'll get to see how he knows about it when I reach the main Flashpoint book. Eduardo Risso on art also impresses. I don't think I've ever seen any of his work before, but his simple style works really well for communicating the darkness of this story. Less a tale and more a demonstration of the need to change this world back, "Knight of Vengeance" leaves me more eager to get to the main event.

27 December 2016

Doctor Who at Christmas: The Sleep of Reason

Mass market paperback, 281 pages
Published 2004

Acquired and read December 2016
Doctor Who: The Sleep of Reason
by Martin Day

My tradition for the last six years has been to read a Doctor Who book set at Christmas around Christmastime... the last three years have seen me scraping the bottom of the barrel, with Nightshade and K9 and Company, two books set at Christmastime, but otherwise no real Christmassy content. The Sleep of Reason's connection to the season is even more tenuous, as there are just a few chapters set on 24 and 25 December 1903.

The book starts out great: it's set in a psychiatric hospital, with parallel narratives in 1903 and 2003, and there's a very compellingly and disturbingly written history of a teenage girl practicing self-harm. Not the kind of thing you'd see in a Doctor Who novel post-"Rose," and not the kind of thing I associate with Christmas, but it sets the stage. The Doctor is suitably mysterious in this one, with lots of good lines. Things are set up well, with mysterious goings on at the hospital in both time zones...

...and set up is basically all that ever happens. On page 203 out of 281, the Doctor finally figures out what's going on... and then we're told that he, "far from proposing any plan of action, stated that he was still at the information-gathering stage." C'mon, Martin Day, kick this plot into gear sometime! As you might guess, things wrap up a bit too easily, and plus it turns out that everything's the fault of that overused Doctor Who standby, aliens who feed on negative emotion. A promising beginning, and some good touches here and there, and a nice companion-of-the-month, but a disappointing novel on the whole.

Thankfully, Penguin released a book of Christmas-themed Doctor Who short stories this year, so next year's read-- probably the last-- will be one with a direct connection to the season.

Next Week: Less a volume 3 and more a volume 0... or maybe even a volume i, since it's all pretty tangential to the main event. Still, it's more The Transformers: All Hail Megatron!

26 December 2016

Review: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Four: 1992-1995 by Bill Watterson

Comic trade paperback, 371 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 1992-95)

Acquired December 2014
Read November 2016
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Four: 1992-1995
by Bill Watterson

Like in the third Calvin and Hobbes volume, there's a big gap in the middle of this one (the last one), as Bill Watterson goes on a sabbatical from April 3 to December 31, 1994, which mean that like in Book Three, you just get out of the winter strips and go straight back to them.

Maybe I'm projecting, but there's a sense of the strip sort of winding down. This volume has no masterful extended imaginative storylines. I mean, there's some good stories, like Calvin making a terrible safety poster, Calvin expanding his brain with a thinking cap to do his homework, and Calvin's mom babysitting Susie for an afternoon. But the long, fanciful stories of previous volumes aren't to be found-- most of these stories are just a week or two at most.

There's also an increased cynicism, I think. I mean, Calvin and Hobbes has always been cynical, but there's more strips here from the perspective of Calvin's parents, with no Calvin in them at all, complaining about the media or being in grocery store lines or what have you. Without Calvin to leaven the mood, they just come across as old-guy-complains-about-the-world strips like you could see almost anywhere else on the comics page. All of this ads up to me thinking that Bill Watterson was getting tired. Though tired Bill Watterson is still better than most cartoonists, and there's lots to love here regardless.

All that said: Watterson's expanded Sunday strips are amazing. Maybe he wasn't so much losing his imagination as channeling his imagination into these masterpieces. The stuff he does with layouts and panel size is great; I want to reiterate what I said in my review of Book Three, that it's a shame he apparently stopped cartooning, because he could clearly do something amazing.

And: the oft-commented-upon end of the strip really is perfect. "...let's go exploring!"

23 December 2016

DC's 2011-12 My Greatest Adventure Revival: A Brief Return into Space


The original My Greatest Adventure was an anthology comic from DC that ran for 85 issues, from 1955 to 1964. In issue #80, the Doom Patrol (a group of superpowered misfits) became the focus of the book, and with issue #86 the book was retitled Doom Patrol. The Doom Patrol book lasted until #124, and the book's been revived many times since. My Greatest Adventure, however, remained moribund from 1964 until 2011, when it was brought back as a six-issue follow-up to Weird Worlds. Like Weird Worlds, each issue of My Greatest Adventure contains ten pages apiece of three features. Garbage Man and Tanga return from Weird Worlds, while My Greatest Adventure replaces Lobo with Robotman, who was in fact one of the original members of the Doom Patrol back in 1963.

Like with Weird Worlds, I'm reading it as part of my mission to read all of DC's non-Green Lantern space comics, as Tanga takes place in space.

Robotman (written by Matt Kindt, art by Scott Kolins, colors by Mike Atiyeh, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)
I've never read a Doom Patrol comic, so I don't know what here is preexisting and what is new by Matt Kindt. Kindt depicts a Robotman who's left the Doom Patrol and set himself as a sort of high-tech troubleshooter. Robotman was created when a daredevil's body was destroyed in an attempt to set a new landspeed record, and nanites created a robot body for his brain; his assistant is same woman assigned to him for the landspeed record attempt by the mysterious U.N.R.E.A.S.O.N. organization, who feels responsible for his accident.

Kindt flirts with interesting ideas here: mind/body dualism seems to drive his take on the character of Robotman, whose body must obey Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, but whose mind is under no such obligation. But I don't think the story ever did much with that concept. In this story, he investigates creatures created by the same nanites that created him, and returns to the island of his accident. Part six doles out some interesting revelations-- but by then the story's over! So it's oddly paced, especially given that part six's big revelations are mostly given by Robotman in narration, not in actual dialogue. Less time on the giant monster fights in earlier installments could have balanced this one out a bit better.

That said, I'm falling in love with Scott Kolins as an artist, having recently encountered his work on The Flash with Geoff Johns a couple times. He draws a great Robotman (Robotman's form can change as the nanites rebuild him to suit his current situation), amazing Kirbyesque monsters, realistic-looking but attractive human beings (I really liked the appearance of Robotman's human assistant), and ornate-but-eminently-readable layouts. This feature had the best art in a book of good artists doing excellent work.

from My Greatest Adventure vol. 2 #4

Garbage Man (story and pencils by Aaron Lopresti, inks by Matt Ryan, colors by John Kalisz, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)
This continues the story begun in Weird Worlds, with Garbage Man returning to Gotham to investigate the crooked law firm that had him bumped off, seek revenge, reunite with his old flame, fight with Batman, and battle mysterious monsters in the sewers. I guess you can't say that Aaron Lopresti doesn't pack it into his ten-page installments! The premise clicked a bit better for me here than it did in the first six parts; I like the idea of the scumbag high-powered lawyer becoming the protector of Gotham's homeless. The pacing was better in this half of the story, too, and I was so sure there was going to be a certain twist I ended up surprised by the lack of one.

Lopresti's unity of art and story continue to impress, though the whole thing still seems to be a bit too much Swamp Thing; the "twist" that does happen is one that Alan Moore did with Swamp Thing back in the 1980s! The end sets us up to expect more adventures for Garbage Man, but to my knowledge, this was the character's final appearance.

Tanga (story and art by Kevin Maguire, colors by Rosemary Cheetham, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)
Similarly, this story was the last appearance of Kevin Maguire's free-spiriting space adventurer Tanga, even though the story ends with her flying off into space for more hijinks and also indicates there's some mysteries behind the character.

Like with Garbage Man, this half of the story hangs together better than the half in Weird Worlds, as the secret of Za is revealed. I'm not so keen on making female characters overcome sexual threats to prove themselves-- it seems very limiting-- but other than that I enjoyed this. Maguire always does great stuff with facial expressions, and an outraged Tanga gives him a lot to play with. The events of the last part were very good, too, being a lot more downbeat than I expected, and giving some tragedy to the otherwise exuberant Tanga. It seems like it would be easy to work Tanga in as a guest star in another space-based book even if she's not going to get her own feature again, but then again, I suppose there haven't been very many DC space heroes books post-Flashpoint that she could appear in.

22 December 2016

Review: Scientific London by Bernard H. Becker

Hardcover, 340 pages
Published 1968 (originally 1874)
Borrowed from the library
Read December 2012
Scientific London by Bernard H. Becker

Becker says that the purpose of his book is to "describe in a compact form the rise, progress, and present condition of those great Scientific Institutions of which London-- and for that matter England-- is justly proud" (v). To do so he visits the Royal Society, the Royal Institution, the Society of Arts, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Chemical Society, the Department of Science and Art, and so on, talking about the personalities of the places and their members: Royal Society members, for example, are thoughtful, gray-haired, active, hard-working, constantly studying, cheerful, and serious (25), whereas the members of the Institution of Civil Engineers themselves admit that though they have the virtue of patient application, their power over numbers is of "rare [...] utility in the ordinary affairs of life" (123).

Basically, there's a lot of details here that were of little or no interest to me, but everyone now and then, Becker or one of his interviewees communicates a little nugget indicating how science was perceived and understood in the mid-Victorian period: that English engineers reshaped India, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Japan (129); or that Huxley always assumes his students are ignorant and begins from first principles rather than "build an airy and showy superstructure upon a rickety and insecure foundation" (181); or that science started as a torrent, but has subdivided into smaller and smaller streams through specialization, but also been purged of what we now see as unscientific (231-2); or that statistics are saving humanity: "It would [...] be difficult to exaggerate the influence exercised by statistics at the present moment over every department of human thought" (278). Not exactly riveting reading, but Becker provides some insight into a key era in the institutionalization of British science.

21 December 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LVI: The World of Flashpoint featuring Superman

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2016
The World of Flashpoint featuring Superman

Writers: Scott Snyder & Lowell Francis, Rex Ogle, Dan Jurgens, Mike Carlin
Artists: Gene Ha, Eduardo Francisco, Paulo Siqueira, Roland Paris, Dan Jurgens, Rick Leonardi, Ig Guara, Norm Rapmund, Ruy José, Don Ho, Rags Morales, Rick Bryant
Colorists: Art Lyon, Stefani Renee, Nei Ruffino
Letterers: Rob Leigh, Travis Lanham, Carlos M. Mangual, Dave Sharpe

The way The World of Flashpoint slots together continues to be pretty neat. "Project Superman" starts many years back, with a soldier volunteering to undergo a process to have alien DNA grafted into his system-- we eventually find out this DNA comes from Doomsday. The process turns him into a monster called Subject Zero, but he sees everyone else as a monster, in a pretty horrifying dissonance. General Lane gives up on him when Kal-El's rocket crashlands in Metropolis, and the military begins working with "Subject One" instead, not knowing that Project Zero is covertly influencing him. Eventually things go nuts, and young Kal has no idea what to do or who to trust. The story then dovetails into where "Lois Lane and the Resistance" from the Wonder Woman volume ended, as Subject One seeks out Lois, who showed him some of the only affection he's even known. Things go downhill pretty quickly when Subject Zero shows up again, however. It's probably the best story in this volume, a nice dark horror tale, thanks especially to Gene Ha: unlike most stories in these volumes, this one has one artist all the way through, and he's a very good one to boot.

Lois Lane is a badass at any age in any timeline. Also the "Subject One" version of Kal-El is a weird mixture of creepy and cute.
from Flashpoint: Project Superman #2 (plot by Scott Snyder, co-plot & script by Lowell Francis, art by Gene Ha)

Next comes "The World of Flashpoint," which despite its broad title, is as focused as any of the other tales in this volume, with a tale of Traci Thirteen, the young Homo magi. In the usual DC reality she's a sometime Superman ally and Blue Beetle romantic interest. Here, half her family is killed thanks to the Atlantean geo-weapon from last volume, and her dad decides to nuke half the world to save the other half. Traci goes on a quest to stop him, which lets her encounter a number of random players from the world of Flashpoint like Red Tornado, Natasha Irons, Beast Boy, Jason Todd, and best of all, a Zen bartender Guy Gardner. The story itself is pretty so-so, but like many of these World of Flashpoint tales, it's pleasing for how it build the universe. I'll be curious if its events actually play into the main Flashpoint narrative or not.

20 December 2016

Review: The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Volume 2 by Shane McCarthy, Guido Guidi, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2009 (contents: 2009)
Acquired August 2014
Read July 2016
The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Volume 2

Story by Shane McCarthy
Art by Guido Guidi, E. J. Su, Robert Deas, and Emiliano Santalucia
Colors by Josh Burcham, Kris Carter, James Brown, Robert Deas, Felix Serrano
Color Assist by Benjamin Maier
Letters by Chris Mowry and Robbie Robbins

Though there were two more volumes of All Hail Megatron after this, volume 2 concludes the main event, as those were prequels, side stories, and codas. This volume opens by explaining how the Autobots ended up in such dire straits as the series began with, though I didn't find the answers entirely satisfying. Much of the problems that plagued volume 1 still plague this one, but I found a lot of the stuff in the last two chapters more interesting than what had come before: Megatron expressing his frustration to Starscream, for example, that Starscream has never become the warrior-leader that Megatron wanted him to be was great, as is the dealing with the idea that everything Megatron does hearkens back to his original revolutionary purpose.

As always, imagine this in David Kaye's Megatron voice to make it even better.
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #11 (art by Guido Guidi)

This leads to a pretty good ending, where Starscream actually saves Megatron instead of killing him, and a Decepticon actually break ranks to help humanity-- though not for the reasons that the Autobots would like, not even for the reasons his fellow traitor would like. But this is just the final two issues, and it's taken us a whole twelve issues to get through all this. In the end, All Hail Megatron seems more interesting for the follow-up stories it promises than the story it told itself.

No one likes Drift.
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #12 (art by Guido Guidi)

Guido Guidi's work is usually very dependable, but there's also a lot of terrible fill-in artists that look like they came off DeviantArt. It's bad when one artist's humans look less expressive and lively than another artist's robots.

It almost looks to me like something out of Questionable Content, and not in a good way.
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #9 (art by Robert Deas)

Next Week: I take a break from The Transformers to read a Doctor Who book set at Christmas at Christmas!

19 December 2016

Review: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Three: 1990-1992 by Bill Watterson

I am on an audio review ROLL. What if a cockney space con man was a Time Lord? Of course IT WOULD BE AWESOME. I review The Trouble with Drax. (Less awesome: the most recent Fourth Doctor Adventures series finale.)

Comic trade paperback, 371 pages
Published 2012 (contents: 1990-92)

Acquired December 2014
Read July 2016
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book Three: 1990-1992
by Bill Watterson

The third volume sees the last few ongoing elements of Calvin and Hobbes materialize: the Tracer Bullet strips (a pastiche of hardboiled noir conventions), the ever-changing game of Calvinball, and the format-busting Sunday strips. That last innovation is preceded by a nine-month hiatus for Bill Watterson; the strips collected here jump straight from May 4, 1991 to February 2, 1992, meaning we've only just gotten out of winter and suddenly it's snowing again! But after the hiatus, Watterson returned with more innovative page layouts that really let him show off his accomplished draftsmanship. It's a shame Watterson has largely eschewed comics since the end of Calvin and Hobbes, as the Sunday strips largely shift to  chronicling the varied contents of Calvin's imagination, the lavish detail and dynamic layouts lead me to conclude Watterson could so something fantastic with the canvas of a true graphic novel. Some metafictional cynicism starts creeping in, too, though, with a number of strips featuring Calvin ruminating on the tension between pure art and crass commercialism.

This volume features of a couple of the best Calvin and Hobbes storylines I remember from my childhood, such as Calvin's duplicator (Calvin creates five duplicates to do his work, only to discover his duplicates have his work ethic, meaning he now has six times the laziness to contend with) and the sequel about the moralizer (Calvin's ethical duplicate horrifies Calvin when it turns out he likes Susie). None of the collected editions my family had when I was growing up must have contained 1992, however, as all of the post-hiatus storylines were unfamiliar to me. I found the one where Calvin travels in time from 6:30 to 8:30 to pick up completed homework from his future self, only to discover his 8:30 self didn't do the homework in anticipation of receiving it via time travel, causing both Calvins to travel together to 7:30 to blame that Calvin for the problem, to be an utter delight-- as is, of course, most of this book, which yields at least one laugh-out-loud moment per page, whether is be a far-fetched storyline about deranged mutant killer snow goons or a slice-of-life story about Calvin's discovery of specialized magazines for gum-chewers or a simple gag about how Calvin's mom's job prepared her to be a stay-at-home mother.

Though my favorite strip is probably the one where Calvin's dad explains to Calvin that miserable vacations are that way on purpose, and better than a luxury cruise, as they make the whole rest of your life feel like a luxury cruise. I can hear my parents offering a similar explanation. (Though I note the family isn't actually seen to go on any miserable vacations in this volume.)

16 December 2016

Changing What I Get Facebook Fed

Teaser
After the election, I suddenly became aware of it. My facebook feed was filled with political posts. I mean, naturally, and perhaps quite right. But what began to irritate me is that they were low effort.

Let's step back a little bit.

Earlier...
I know, I know, I'm old. But I remember when facebook (then known as thefacebook) was just a website where you could figure out who people you went in class with were. Like, you didn't have a "status" and you certainly couldn't post articles, but you did have a "wall" which back then* was a weird little box on your profile where anyone could write anything without attribution, which meant usually meant ASCII dick pics. I mean, there was even a little thing where you could load in your class schedule so that you could then see all the folks taking ENG 301 at Miami University or whatever.

Back then facebook was for navigating the strange social world of your college, and once it was opened up, it became about keeping up with more distant friends and family. (Do you remember when it was weird that your mom could be on facebook? Now you can't move six inches for all the aunts and uncles and even... grandparents!)

Then...
But somewhere along the line, businesses and websites got involved, and you can follow them, which is a lot like being friends except they don't follow you. I've been very selective about this kind of thing. Or so I thought; I just checked and it's as high as 32, so maybe I need to prune it back a bit. But they mostly are things that are important to me, usually small/local businesses I support, or blogs I follow, or a couple campus institutions like the library (nice), the art museum (great), and the bursar (yeah, I don't know).

I just picked a semi-random facebook friend, though, and they have about 500 friends, but about 300 pages that they "like"! And of course many of these pages post at least once a day, if not much more. And while if I like (why are there two different meanings of "like" on facebook, it's confusing) a post by a friend, no one who is not also friends with that friend will know about it,† if I like a post by the Coleslaw Review, facebook could possibly inform all of my facebook friends of that fact.

Back to Now...
Okay, so the effect of this is that a lot of low-effort stuff ends up in my facebook feed. By this I mean that if I read a post by the Coleslaw Review that fundamentally changes the way I view the consistency of coleslaw, I will take the link and post it on my wall, possibly with some kind of witty comment, or at least a comment. But if I'm just like, "oh that's good," then all I do is press "like" and move on with my life. But to facebook friends looking at their timelines, those events are displayed as being of equal significance.

After the election this started to get on my nerves. Maybe it increased in frequency or maybe I just got tired of the gloom and doom, but I felt like my facebook feed had been taken over by people liking posts from, Medium and US Uncut and Reductress and Progress Ohio and Everyday Feminism and some guy named Bernie Sanders and just random journalists and stuff. And I'm like, "I just want to know what my friends and family who are scattered across America are doing." C'mon facebook, if this post from US Uncut really was any good, my friend would have posted the link instead of just clicking "like."

And Then...
Supposedly facebook learns from you and your interests. I mean, they're incentivized to because they want to sell you stuff. So I've been trying to train facebook to be the website I want. Literally every time facebook shows me that a friend liked something from a page, I click the little down arrow in the top right, select Hide Post and then I hit See less from [Page Name]. You can tell it to hide all from a certain page, but I don't do that because if you like a Coleslaw Review post so much you share it on your timeline, I want to see it. (I don't really know what facebook interprets "See less" to mean, though, so who knows what the actual effect is; maybe it's censoring all the good Coleslaw Review links now.)

The other thing I've been doing is paying attention to when this box appears in the rightside column:

Whenever I see it, I click Give Feedback and tell facebook what I like; it displays actual stories and asks you to rate them on a five-point scale. Things I tell it I really like: good friends posting good photos or life events or funny lines. Things I tell it I kind of like: okay friends posting good content, or good friends posting okay content. Things I tell it I'm neutral on: any friends posting okay links to outside sites. Things I tell it I strongly dislike: any stories from pages that appear because a friend liked it. (If you tell it you definitely want to see something in you feed, it asks you why, and I always choose It helps me feel connected to family/friends.)

I think it's working. I had to do a lot of scrolling through my feed to get enough "low-effort" posts to jog my memory for examples. Most of what I see now are status updates, links, and photos by actual friends. So ten years on, maybe I'm getting my facebook back to its second original purpose.

* I always forget that you actually don't have a wall anymore; you have a timeline. Wikipedia informs me that the term "wall" was phased out in 2011.
† Unless their privacy is set to public, the fools.

15 December 2016

Review: Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street by Michael Davis

Trade paperback, 379 pages
Published 2009 (originally 2008)
Borrowed from my wife
Read November 2014
Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street
by Michael Davis

After reading the excellent Jim Henson: The Biography, I grew interested in a book my wife has owned for a long time but never read, Michael Davis's complete history of Sesame Street. I have read a lot of histories of television shows, and Street Gang is one of the worst. It is confusing, choppy, and filled with too many people. I understand that they were all real, but Davis does a very poor job orienting you in who they are and why they matter. I often felt like important events had been glossed over between chapters and that unimportant events had been dwelt upon in excruciating detail. The best parts of the book were the ones about Sesame Street's predecessors, but I'm not sure what they actually had to do with the topic.

14 December 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LV: The World of Flashpoint featuring Wonder Woman

My three days of Doctor Who reviews comes to an end with the best Fourth Doctor Adventure so far this series, Gallery of Ghouls.

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2012 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2016
The World of Flashpoint featuring Wonder Woman

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Tony Bedard, James Robinson
Pencillers: Agustin Padilla, Scott Clark, Vicente Cifuentes, Ardian Syaf, Eddie Nunez, Gianluca Gugliotta, Christian Duce, Javi Fernandez
Inkers: Jose Aviles, Dave Beaty, Vicente Cifuentes, Diana Egea, Don Ho, Gianluca Gugliotta, Walden Wong, Javi Fernandez
Colorists: Nei Ruffino, Val Staples, Andrew Dalhouse, Kyle Ritter, The Hories
Letterers: Travis Lanham, Jared K. Fletcher, Dave Sharpe, John J. Hill

I'm not sure where I got my reading order for the Flashpoint collections from, but so far, it seems to make sense to read the Wonder Woman World of Flashpoint collection first. The first two stories in here, "Wonder Woman and the Furies" and "Emperor Aquaman," lay out the status quo of this new timeline we're suddenly in, from different perspectives. The Wonder Woman tale spans the history of the Flashpoint universe, showing us Princess Diana first encounter with Man's World, which results in an engagement to Aquaman. Reactionary elements in both the Amazon and Atlantean societies think merging the cultures is a Very Bad Idea, and manipulate events to kick off a war that wrecks much of the Earth, with Great Britain becoming an Amazon fortress and much of Europe devastated by an Atlantean geo-weapon.

That's Angela Merkel, right? It always amuses me when actual heads of state turn up in superhero comics. Though, in one of the stories in The World of Flashpoint featuring Superman, Germany is represented by an actual Nazi, so how does that track with this?
from Flashpoint: Emperor Aquaman #1 (script by Tony Bedard, art by Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes)

As a story, to be honest, the Wonder Woman one doesn't have a whole lot to recommend it, from either a writing or artistic perspective; the writing moves too quickly for us to get attached to this version of Diana, and the art is weird, either plasticky under one illustrator, or kind of flat under another. But the story's real purpose seems to be exposition: read this, and you'll know the background for every subsequent World of Flashpoint tale. As a result, "Emperor Aquaman" seems to have more room to breathe, giving more personal focus to Arthur Curry in this mad world, showing his youth (he spent much less time on the surface world than his Prime equivalent, to his morality's detriment) and how the attacks detailed in the Wonder Woman tale affected him on a personal level. It's not particularly amazing, but it works.

I'm not sure what I like less, plastic-face on the left, or giant-eye on the right.
from Flashpoint: Wonder Woman and the Furies #1 (script by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, art by Scott Clark & Dave Beaty) and #2 (script by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, art by Agustin Padilla & Jose Aviles)

If there's anything to like about these tales so far, it's how they all interlock to create a larger tapestry. "Lois Lane and the Resistance" shows us the backstory of some key events of "Wonder Woman and the Furies": like, we learn how come Lois is broadcasting a distress signal to the world from Great Britain, and how Diana figures out that her aunt has set her up. Other than that and some once again goofy art (the outfits Eddie Nunez puts Lois into are ridiculous, though I thought the issue illustrated by Christian Duce showed some real design sense) and a team up between Etrigan the Demon and Grifter, there's not much going on here.

At first I was gonna scan some of the art I didn't like, but then I was like, 'c'mon, self, accentuate the positive.' Looking at it again, I think it's the inking that really makes it work: Walden Wong is pretty reliable.
from Flashpoint: Lois Lane and the Resistance #3 (script by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, art by Christian Duce & Walden Wong)

The book closes out with "The Outsider," about an asshole criminal from India. This story isn't very strongly linked to the other three and probably could have gone in a different volume. James Robinson has written some good magnificent bastards before, but the Outsider isn't one of them: there's little to care about here, and fewer familiar characters and concepts from the DC universe appear, either. I found this one sort of joyless and grim in an uninvolving way.

Next Week: Okay, but what about Superman? Time to find out what happened to the Man of Steel in The World of Flashpoint!

13 December 2016

Review: The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Volume 1 by Shane McCarthy, Guido Guidi, et al.

Another day, another audio drama review: one of my favo[u]rite Doctor-companion teams by one of their best writers in Doctor Who and the Paradox Planet and the Legacy of Death! (It's not really called that.)

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2009 (contents: 2008-09)
Acquired August 2014
Read July 2016
The Transformers: All Hail Megatron, Volume 1

Story by Shane McCarthy
Art by Guido Guidi and Casey Coller
Colors by Josh Burcham
Letters by Chris Mowry and Neil Uyetake

I wanted to like this book more than I did. "The Decepticons actually do conquer Earth" is a great premise, and unlike the devoted fans who write articles on the Transformers wiki, I don't really care if the depiction of Cybertron here is consistent with past ones in IDW, or whatever. It's just that: 1) the human military characters dominate the first few chapters of the book, and they are as generic as all get out, like too-hotshot-for-you-I-don't-obey-orders-but-never-get-in-trouble generic, and 2) the Autobots are back to being an indistinguishable mass of non-characters for me when they do turn up, all hanging out on Cybertron and moping, but what's the difference between Prowl and Jazz anyway. I like the idea of a dark situation that reveals these robots' inner characters, but mostly that just turns out to be snarling at each other.

This book was supposed to be a jumping-on point, but no one ever says the name of the guy on the right? What if I wasn't four years old when the G1 cartoon went out? Not much of a jumping-on point, then.
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #4 (art by Guido Guidi)

There a just a lot of scenes, on both Earth and Cybertron, that I think are meant to build tension, but just go nowhere, spinning in circles. That Megatron has got hold of the SPOILER is a pretty good twist, though, and the hints we get of philosophical and moral disagreements among the Decepticons now that they've achieved their goals are pretty good, too. I didn't hate this or anything. But what happened here didn't need to occupy six issues, and it should have been better than it was. Guido Guidi is a surprisingly good artist, though-- like E. J. Su, he can make these robots come to life.

C'mon Megatron, genocide should make you happier than this!
from The Transformers: All Hail Megatron #3 (art by Guido Guidi)

Next Week: Time to save the Earth and Cybertron, when the Autobots strike back in All Hail Megatron, Volume 2!

12 December 2016

Review: The State of the Art by Iain M. Banks

The traditional side note: you can read my reviews of Eddie Robson's Fourth Doctor Adventure, The Labyrinth of Buda Castle, and the latest War Doctor Adventures, Agents of Chaos, here and here at USF, respectively.

Trade paperback, 216 pages
Published 1998 (contents: 1987-91)

Acquired January 2014
Read July 2016
The State of the Art by Iain M. Banks

I picked up this book a couple years ago, looking for a science fiction story from the late twentieth century to teach in a college survey of British literature from 1800 to the present; I assigned my students the Culture novella "The State of the Art." I had actually never read a Culture story before. I've been reading Banks's literary fiction on-and-off for a few years, and I harbored a sort of compulsion that I ought to read all his literary fiction, and then move onto his sf. "The State of the Art" is a great tale: funny and thought-provoking, it both questions our cultural narratives, and the idea that questioning our cultural narratives is enough to then just readopt them: "there is an osmosis from fiction to reality, a constant contamination which distorts the truth behind both and fuzzes the telling distinctions in life itself [...]. They always had too many stories, I believe" (201-2). This is a story about being seduced by the nobility of suffering when in fact suffering is completely nonessential. If you exist in a perfect world, there might be no hope, but that's because things are so good you don't need hope. I would happily lose hope in exchange for living in a world that was literally perfect. Sadly, I failed to convince a single student of this. But it remains a provocative and interesting story.

So this month I finally read the rest of the volume (and reread "State of the Art": it's still good). The stories are eclectic. Two or three more seem to be about the Culture, from what I know of it. "Descendant," about a crash victim who has a difficult relationship with his spacesuit was neat, but I particularly enjoyed "Cleaning Up," a fun story where the very technologically advanced trash of an alien civilization is accidentally being deposited on Earth. There are lots of funny bits, some good black comedy, and an ending I didn't see coming. (If the advanced civilization here is the Culture, though, this book is definitely not in continuity with "State of the Art.")

There was some non-sf, too, most notably "Piece," which is about religious radicalism. It also had an unexpected ending, though I think I would have seen it coming if I was less ignorant. I'm not sure what to think about it, to be honest: it feels a very earnest and off-the-cuff response to tragedy, with all the positives and negatives that implies.

I should say there were a couple tales I bounced off. "A Gift from the Culture" sort of meandered and didn't say much of interest, while "Odd Attachment" was just baffling. But you could have just put "The State of the Art" in here and this book would have been worth it, so I'm glad for the chance to experience the Culture for the first time, and to see this snapshot of the early Iain M. Banks.

09 December 2016

The (First) Return of the Omega Men

DC's Omega Men has got a lot of press over the last year thanks to its revival by Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda, and I look forward to reading it, hopefully soon. But what many people forget is that after its original 1983-86 run by Roger Silfer, Keith Giffen, Tod Smith, Doug Moench, Todd Klein, and Shawn McManus, it was revived for a six-issue miniseries in 2005-06. (It has not been collected by DC. Given that a solicited collection of the beginning of the original Omega Men run was cancelled, I must imagine this incarnation will never ever be collected.) I assume this was commissioned because Adam Strange: Planet Heist had just shown the Omega Men at their coolest for the first time in twenty years.

The original Omega Men was about fighting a revolution (against the barbaric Citadel), and then it became, ambitiously, about what you do after winning a revolution-- though the writers turned out to not be really up to the task of making the new premise work. When Todd Klein took over, he had the Vega system be reconquered, this time by the mysterious Spider Guild. The series ended with the Omegans creating a refuge from the Spider Guild, but most of Vega still under their control. The Omega Men's reappearances in Invasion!, Blasters, Starman, Planet Heist, and the like have made it clear that Vega is still under the control of the Spider Guild, and so, despite years of losses (only three of the Omega Men in this miniseries were also the original Omega Men #1), the Omega Men fight on.

The focus of Andersen Gabrych and Henry Flint's revival isn't really on liberating Vega, however. The Omega Men have discovered the Spider Emperor has accessed an object of enormous power-- much as their own Ryand'r has-- and have come to Earth to find out what's going on. So has Vril Dox of L.E.G.I.O.N. There are in fact four Heartstones, coveted by Lady Styx, a villain introduced in 52 who has occasionally bedeviled the space heroes in various titles.

Things get pretty cosmic pretty quickly, which is both the strength and weakness of this series. Flint's gigantic panels of enormous events are evocative, but it's sometimes difficult to make out what's actually happening in the midst of them. Gabrych provides the series with a real scope, but it's one so big that the Omega Men become mere accessories to its events. Tigorr gets a lot of focus: I like that he was confronted with all the dead Omegans from over the years (there are a lot), and I was pleasantly surprised to see his lover Felicity make a comeback. But beyond him, they don't get to shine very much, especially Broot, who's just muscle (Doc and Elu get to make jokes occasionally, at least). L.E.G.I.O.N.'s Vril Dox gets a good showing here-- basically too good a showing, as he gets a lot of the best lines, and makes too many of the important moves.

I haven't cared much for Lady Styx in many of her appearances; she often comes across, like so many comics villains, as a cut-rate Darkseid. But here I really liked her. Her creepy army of Darkstars, her being made up of the bodies of her adherents, the chanting and her emphasis on love all conspire to make her seem like a deep, genuine threat to the cosmos. This is the best she's ever been, I reckon, thanks to Gabrych and Flint.

This is an interesting comic, but an imperfect one. I don't think the cosmic threat plays to the strengths of Omega Men as a concept-- I want more sense of them as a band of misfits coming together against great odds, but here it feels like they spend most of their time standing around and watching. There are touches of greatness here, but the writing and the art are both too frequently too obscure.

08 December 2016

Review: Looking Within by J. W. Roberts

Hardcover, 279 pages
Published 1971 (originally 1893)
Borrowed from the library
Read October 2013
Looking Within: The Misleading Tendencies of "Looking Backward" Made Manifest
by J. W. Roberts

Early science fiction novels published in rejoinder to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888) were basically a whole industry in and of themselves. LibraryThing records five sequels by other writers, plus a prequel, plus the more indirect rebuttals like William Morris's News from Nowhere (1890) and "Mr. Dick"'s James Ingleton (1893). Looking Within is definitely a more direct reply: basically a dude learns that Looking Backward is causing the moral degeneration of the nation, then falls asleep for 35 years, when he sees a massive war. The he sleeps again and wakes up in the time of Bellamy's future utopia, but unlike Bellamy's narrator, instantly detects all of its super-obvious flaws. (Bellamy's narrator is Mr. West; this book's is Mr. North! The two even meet in the year 2000.)

Society breaks down because Mr. North is right, of course, and a new society is implemented, without all that dangerous equality stuff, which is just a slippery slope to "requir[ing] personal equality shall extend to personal appearance, dress, education, and all else" (229). And what if they let the coloreds in on this whole equality thing? Well, don't worry, regress 'em back to slavery and they'll be in their natural place again. Just make it an enlightened one this time. Looking Backward might be wrong-headed, but at least it's trying; Looking Within is pretty explicitly arguing: 'The best political system is the one that benefits me, the writer, in the present, just with some of the rough edges worn off.' The future folks explicitly readopt nineteenth-century values after everything falls apart. It's repellently short-sighted.

All that said, Roberts gets-- unlike Bellamy-- that the massive changes of the year 2000 wouldn't just spontaneously happen. Roberts depicts a massive air war in the year 1927 that is nothing but slaughter and carnage because when you fly an air-ship, no one can escape your wrath, and soon total war means that there's nothing left to fight over. 1893 was a good year for air war: this is the fourth novel published that year I can think of that depicts a bloody aerial conflict, and in every case, it's a precursor to social change.

07 December 2016

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part LIV: The Flash: The Road to Flashpoint

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2011 (contents: 2011)
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2016
The Flash: The Road to Flashpoint

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Scott Kolins, Francis Manapul
Colorists: Brian Buccellato, Michael Atiyeh
Letterer: Sal Cipriano

You might have expected Final Crisis to be the end of my reviews of DC's Crisis books. It was, after all, about the Final Crisis, and thus far, DC has actually kept to that claim. But there have been a couple events since that seem to be Crises in all but name, so I'll be tackling those next, starting with Flashpoint.

This is the lead-in to Flashpoint, featuring the Flash. The Barry Allen version, recently returned from beyond the grave during the Final Crisis, and slipping back into his old life. The book opens with a standalone story about Professor Zoom, a.k.a. the Reverse-Flash, and for me, this was the most effective part of the book, a creepy tale of an obsessed man rewriting his timeline to make himself the man he was, removing any obstacle to his goals. I don't think I've read anything substantive with the Reverse-Flash before (he did turn up in some of the Infinite Crisis tie-ins, I think), but I enjoyed this.

That said, that's not how professorships work, Geoff Johns.
from The Flash vol. 3 #8 (art by Scott Kolins)

The rest of the book is less focused. Barry is having trouble settling back into his old life now that's he's undead. (Former sidekick Bart is also undead, thanks to the events of Legion of 3 Worlds. I think Wally West is also resurrected? Didn't he die during the Infinite Crisis?) In the meantime, a Barry Allen from one of the other 51 Earths has appeared in Central City, riding a motorcycle around, plus there are some murders. To be honest, the contours of all this were a bit vague. I wasn't sure what Barry was doing that was so bad it required an intervention, and the book's superhero plot was pretty simple. Guess what: the mysterious newcomer in town is the murderer. Then at the end, Zoom turns up, there's a lot of shouting, and a mysterious lightning bolt indicates the coming of Flashpoint.

C'mon, Barry, you were the first person to ever breach the vibrational barrier. Aren't you used to this by now?
from The Flash vol. 3 #10 (art by Francis Manapul)

I hope that when I read Flashpoint, the point of much of this will be more apparent. I must say, I did really like the artwork from Scott Kolins and Francis Manapul, which was human and dynamic, and the coloring is above average as well.
Good use of white space. (Yeah, that might sound sarcastic, but I mean it.)
from The Flash vol. 3 #11 (art by Scott Kolins)

Next Week: Meanwhile, in another universe: we step into The World of Flashpoint featuring Wonder Woman!

06 December 2016

Review: The Transformers: Devastation by Simon Furman, E. J. Su, et al.

Comic PDF eBook, n.pag.
Published 2008 (contents: 2007-08)
Acquired October 2016
Read November 2016
The Transformers: Devastation

Written by Simon Furman
Art by E. J. Su, Nick Roche, and Robby Musso
Colors by Zac Atkinson, Liam Shalloo, and Josh Burcham

Colors Assist by Chris Carter
Letters by Chris Mowry, Neil Uyetake, Amauri Osorio, and Robbie Robbins


There's a bit of a gap between Infiltration and Devastation-- apparently some kind of escalation has taken place. Still, I was able to follow things well enough. Furman is really good at throwing the reader right into the action but also filling in everything the reader needs to know in the meantime. The Autobots are fighting both the Decepticons (Megatron has called in Sixshot, the living weapon usually reserved for phase 6 of the infiltration protocol even though it's only phase 3) and the Machination, a human conspiracy to reverse-engineer Transformer technology (they've captured one of the Autobots as well as their human ally, Hunter; this will later become important in All Hail Megatron).

IDW is transforming Ratchet into one of my favorites. I really feared for the guy here!
from The Transformers: Devastation #3 (art by Nick Roche)

Devastation follows a somewhat predictable format: action, reprieve, action, reprieve. The Autobots are attacked on their spaceship, escape, and then on the ground. Hot Rod and Wheeljack fight the Machination Headmasters on the streets, and then in a junk yard. But Furman and Su pull this format off very well. Basically, the tension keeps going up as the Autobots barely scrape through again and again, and the reader is aware of the bigger picture in the background, but the characters are too focused on staying alive to have to time to even notice. Furman dribbles out information at exactly the right rate to keep the reader intrigued.
Are these the only clothes Verity and Jimmy own? I don't think Verity gets a different outfit until Last Stand of the Wreckers.
from The Transformers: Devastation #4 (art by Robby Musso)

Some of the plotlines I do have to withhold judgment on: Hunter being forced to become a Headmaster is a little more grotesque than I'd prefer from a Transformers comics, and I know where that goes in All Hail Megatron, but I also know that wasn't Furman's original plan for the character. There's also some stuff about the Dead Universe and about some weird alien horde that comes to Earth recruit Sixshot, and I'm not really sure how that fits into anything here. On the other hand, I do appreciate that Furman portrays the Decepticons as characters-- ones that stammer, and connive, and get sad when their friends die-- instead of unfeeling monsters.

Starscream and Megatron: more than just a bromance.
from The Transformers: Devastation #6 (art by E. J. Su)

If Devastation falls down anywhere, it's that it's clearly a small part of a larger whole. Optimus Prime decides to pull Autobot resources off Earth at the end, apparently in response to something that happened in another book, and there were two volumes where Furman paid off some of his plots (Revelation and Maximum Dinobots) that came between this and All Hail Megatron. At least, I hope he did, because I know many were cut short by All Hail Megatron. So what comes at the end of this is clearly not an ending, just a transition to a new phase. But if you're willing to accept that (and as a comic book reader, I've long gotten used to that kind of thing), this holds together pretty well.

Next Week: One more big jump ahead: find out what happens to Earth after the Autobots abandon it, in All Hail Megatron!