Entry for March 22, 2007 — Anniversary and comics

Friends, I hope you've had a good week. My root canal was as unpleasant as one might imagine (see earlier postings), and I hope that the most painful and expensive part is over. However, as the doctor finished digging a nerve out of my upper right jaw, he noted that next week's X-rays will determine whether further surgery is needed. After all that, I still need to go back to my regular dentist for new caps. I'll be glad when I can eat on both sides of my mouth again, and after a month, I'm already missing pizza, bagels, and crispy chips.

After a long commute home through bad weather last Friday, 16 March 2007, Janice and I spent St. Patrick's Day indoors (not counting shoveling snow). Of course, watching "The Phantom Gourmet" on local television should be enough to make anybody hungry and stir-crazy, and I hope to get to some of the many Boston-area restaurants it reviewed sometime soon.

Janice and I watched "Hellboy: Blood & Iron," the latest animated tale parallel to Mike Mignola's horror comic books and Guillermo del Toro's action movies. While "Sword of Storms" focused on Japanese mythology, the second Cartoon Network (and direct-to-video) feature alluded to the historical Countess Bathory and Eastern European vampire legends.

Although some of the scene transitions and editing were still awkward, no doubt due to rating and time constraints, Janice and I enjoyed the latest Hellboy, which used the same actors (Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, and John Hurt, plus Peri Gilpin) as the first film. I also look forward to "The Black Wedding," as well as to the live-action movie "The Golden Army."

I also logged in some extra time playing "City of Heroes" to help David I.S. catch up with Kim A.G., Steve M.R., Thomas K.Y., and even Dave's sister Shari, who's a relative newbie to the online superhero game. While I understand that some folks play every night, I have too many other demands on my time to keep up beyond our usual Sunday morning and Thursday night meetings.

Unfortunately, college chum Dexter V.H. and I haven't had much luck in our first rounds of troubleshooting the "Fantasy Grounds" virtual tabletop software. However, he and Byron V.O. have been making progress in our Wednesday night D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" teleconferenced fantasy sessions, despite numerous distractions.

The face-to-face "Broken Chains" group also resumed this past Tuesday night, with some good role-playing among the adventurers as they guarded a merchant caravan and fended off a swarm of scarabs in the hostile Halmed Desert…

On Sunday, Janice and I quietly celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary (and the 17th anniversary of our first date) by going to Fuji, our favorite local Japanese steakhouse. On Monday, we drove up to Thomas' condominium in Lexington, Massachusetts, for dinner with him, his parents (who were visiting from Upstate New York), Alex J. (back on the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's spring break), and Alex's girlfriend Serena. As usual, Janice and I got there early and made small talk before the meal. Janice had baked molasses crinkle cookies for dessert.

Thomas' parents made a nice Chinese dinner, including duck, shrimp, and assorted vegetables. During our conversation, I have to admit that I got carried away in discussing various comic books and genre movies with Alex and Serena, to the exclusion of Janice and Thomas' parents. On the other hand, I haven't had many opportunities lately to discuss graphical entertainment.

As promised, here are more thoughts on recent comic books. I thought that the political commentary and artwork in Marvel Comics' "Civil War" crossover storyline were well done, even if the books didn't come out on time and the ending was somewhat anticlimactic (see other postings regarding the fate of Captain America).

After years of mostly following D.C. Comics, I've been lured back into reading some Marvel titles, which are generally more popular. (Marvel has also had more success with movies than D.C., but that's a topic for another blog posting.) While I scan team books such as the Fantastic Four and X-Men in various comic shops, I've been picking up the "New Avengers" and even the occasional Spider-Man during the "Civil War."

I also like the "animated-style" "Marvel Adventures: Avengers" book, with its streamlined, kid-friendly, low-angst style. I've found both Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio, the editors in chief of Marvel and D.C., respectively, to be smart, ego-driven leaders. I appreciate their competitive devotion to quality but disagree with their desire to kill off or resurrect beloved characters, from Spider-Man's Aunt May and Capt. America's sidekick Bucky to the Blue Beetle, Jason Todd, or Nightwing.

On the D.C. Universe side, I've been following the "Identity Crisis/Infinite Crisis/52/Countdown" epic with interest, as well as a bit of reader fatigue. I was pleased with the "One Year Later" reboots of Superman and Batman (if not with "All-Star Batman" or the more convoluted plot threads), and I hope that the Justice League and Justice Society can return to stability and glory after their latest roster shakeups (not unlike the aforementioned Avengers).

I've been collecting "Teen Titans" and "Outsiders," partly because I enjoyed the "Justice League Unlimited" and "Teen Titans" television series (now out on DVD), but the writing on those books has been erratic. Alex Ross' latest paean to the Silver Age, "Justice," has also rewarded those willing to wait months for each installment. However, "Birds of Prey" and "Green Arrow" continue to be among my favorites, with strong female characters, villains who add to plot twists, and well-developed second-string (or bowstring) heroes.

As anyone who has seen my action-figure collection or last Halloween's photos can attest, however, the Batman "family" gets most of my milk money. Paul Dini's back-to-basics run on "Detective Comics," Selina Kyle's misadventures in "Catwoman," and their supporting casts have managed to stoke my interest.

Next installment: Health fair at work, craft festival in Hartford, and independent comics!