Sunday, March 31

The Historicity of Christianity

I don't normally just link to other blogs' posts, but this is just so well put that I when I saw it a couple of weeks ago I saved it for today.  It's one of those things that I wish I'd written myself:  "The Historicity of the Resurrection of Christ" by Mark Musser.  Basically, the way I usually put it to my students, "The life of Jesus is better documented with earlier, more reliable sources than is the life of Julius Caesar."

It's well worth reading.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 30

DC Comics – April 2013 – New 52 Month 18

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the DC Comics that were released during February that I received near the beginning of March. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [ Link to previous month ]

The news coming out of DC – or rather about DC, 'cause DC themselves are being rather mum except with excited “great news” type damage-control announcements that invariably turn out to be premature or not the whole story at all – seems dominated these days by continuing word of chaos among DC editorial. The most disconcerting came within a handful of days just this past week (I'm starting this on 25 March) was that Andy Diggle is leaving Action Comics after only one issue as Grant Morrison's successor. Since Diggle's announced plans and vision for the greatest super-hero of them all seemed a step in the right direction, this is bad enough. Worse was the corollary news that Tony Daniel was to take over writing the title as well as art. The anguished “NOOOOOOO” you may have heard mid-week was me. Daniel is a decent artist. His writing in the New 52 has invariably sucked, and frankly before that was seldom more than adequate. Yeah, I couldn't wait to see Action Comics end up looking like the first year or so of Detective Comics. A couple of days to contemplate that bleakness was followed by the announcement that, no, Daniel won't be lasting but a three-issue arc then moving on to a preplanned, “major” project. No word that I've seen so far as to what Action Comics might look like four months hence ....

During roughly the same period came word that Joshua Hale Fialkov, whose writing I've really liked on the just-ending I, Vampire would not be taking over Green Lantern Corps – because editorial sucker-punched him with the mandate that John Stewart die. Fialkov walked and made no secret why. Whereupon DC crawfished and announced that there are currently “no plans” to kill off John Stewart.

See? Chaos. Do those people have a clue? It's ultimately quite disturbing, especially with rumors coming out of Bleeding Cool of other lame stunts under consideration – “Villains Month” in which, e.g., Batman #24 would be renamed “Joker #24” for that month only; mass cancellation of sixteen titles to be replaced by four weekly titles. And how is that last supposed to help?


The only thing to do is sit back, not think about that kind of stuff, just read and enjoy what we're getting … where it's enjoyable. Some's getting a little marginal on that score, though.

On to the comics....

Sunday, March 24

The Basis for Dynamite's Masks – The Spider vs. the Empire State, Available as Inexpensive eBooks

Just a short plug to let interested parties know that the pulp basis for Dynamite's current Masks comic book miniseries, Norvell Page's wonderful 1938 trilogy of tales from The Spider magazine, collectively known variously as “The Black Police Trilogy” or The Spider vs. the Empire State, under which title they have been available for a couple of years now in a nice trade paperback edition from Age of Aces, containing a fine historical introduction by Thomas Krabacher (reviewed here, parts one, two, and three respectively), have recently been made available in inexpensive eBook formats by the wonderful folks at RadioArchives.

Part of an aggressive initiative by RadioArchives, mainly known for making available remastered, high-quality CD sets of classic radio shows of all genres, to expand their market into the realm of classic pulp literature, The Spider is just one of several series that are appearing in rapid succession as part of “Will Murray's Pulp Classics” eBook library – see here. All this in addition to marketing pulp reprints and replicas from a number of different publishers.

One great feature of the RA eBooks is that they include the entire contents of the original magazine, including the typical backup short-stories, columns, and letters pages. About the only thing they do not reproduce are the original interior line art illustrations. Well, or the advertisements.  But for one cheap price each (currently – but as long as I've known about them – slashed by a buck from $3.99 to $2.99 apiece), you buy the right to download the eBooks in multiple DRM-free formats, suitable for just about any eReader including Kindle and Nook as well as plain old pdf.

So if you want to read the original tale of the criminal “Justice Party's” fascist state in 1938 New York and the Spider's valiant war against it, for currently less than $10 in total, follow these links: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Cheers!, and Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 21

Dynamite Comics – April 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the Dynamite Entertainment comics that were released during February (mostly) that I received near the beginning of March. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Link to previous month.]

Masks #4 of 8

Cover B (25%) by Jae Lee

Well, this marks the halfway point, and the story skips right along. There are no new heroes introduced, but Rafael Vega ducks into a costume and prop shop to evade the Black Police, then kills his pursuers with a sword and seems to be outfitting himself as Zorro. Also, the Spider in Albany discovers that the governor is the lackey of a Man in the Mirror called the Master. Green Hornet, Kato, and the Black Terror terrorize the mayor of New York into revealing the existence of the Master as well, for which the Master remotely kills him. Green Lama and Miss Fury fight the Black Police, then are picked up by the Shadow and Margo Lane. And D.A. Quinn discovers that he can see in the dark when he's attacked by the Black Police, giving him the advantage.

My wording above was deliberate, “the story skips … along.” Again, there's considerable sketchiness to the narrative. Not the art, which is just fine. Perhaps only because I have the “proper” mindset and background for this, I'm loving it. I wondered what those without the background would make of it, and my fears were more or less confirmed by talking with a colleague who is also getting it. He's kind of regretting picking it up. He's largely not familiar with the characters (except the obvious ones), and he hasn't read The Spider versus the Empire State.

Wednesday, March 20

The Lazarus Paradigm (2013)

By Mark E. Eidemiller (The Irons Alliance, Book 2) (available through Amazon)

There is something serendipitous in the fact that I finished reading this book a few days ago, just in time for this past Sunday's Mass Readings – and hence our Monday Night Scripture Study Group a few nights ago – to include the story of the Woman Caught in Adultery from the Gospel of St. John, 8:1-11. I was thus able to use a situation posited herein as a launching point for discussion in our group.

But before bringing up our thoughts regarding the interpretation of that passage proposed by the characters here, which I assume represents Eidemiller's position, regarding the implications of the words that Jesus speaks to the woman, let me provide an overall review and comments.

It's quickly apparent that this sequel to As Iron Sharpens Iron forges a connection between the world of Eidemiller's fan-fiction “Christian Adventures of Doc Savage” series, formally The Bronze Saga, and the separate universe that is the setting for the Irons Alliance tales. Indeed, this story launches directly out of the sixth Bronze Saga novel, Bronze New World, with a minor character introduced there becoming the central character of this book which tells the back story of the mentor character bringing together the members of the Irons Alliance. Of course, that means that this tale is ultimately tied into the old television series, The Time Tunnel, as was Bronze New World. That character (appropriately named Tempor) travels through time back to the early 20th century and proceeds by his presence and nudges to events as they unfold through the years to explain the divergences from our own “real world's” history that were so apparent in As Iron Sharpens Iron.

Monday, March 18

DC Comics – March 2013 – New 52 Month 17

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on the DC Comics that were released during January that I received near the beginning of February. Caution: Spoilers ahead!  [ Link to previous month ]

The first of my “leaner, meaner” monthly round-ups of DC Comics. One change I'm also making is that now my linked reviews just go to the wonderful Comic Book RoundUp website that pulls together and links to multiple reviews and gives an average overall rating based on them. They usually include the individual reviewers that I generally go to for each “family” of books, plus a lot more. If an issue I'm including has a page there, that's what I'm linking to.

Do we really need another month's worth of the stupid Arrow banner across the top of the covers?

In other “news” ...

Saner heads ultimately prevailed at DC as it was recently announced that the “WTF” “event” will not be so billed. If I may editorialise, whoever thought that would be a good idea in the first place should be fired. I don't often say that so bluntly, but come on!

And now to the comics....

Earth 2 #8
Lazy Sunday”

What's Steppenwolf been up to these five years? Well, raising (and corrupting) his foster daughter, Wonder Woman's daughter, Fury, who comes off as a fusion of Big Barda and Lashina.

Worlds' Finest #8
Hunt and Be Hunted”

Still loving this series, and now Batman knows Damian's been up to something on the sly....

Sunday, March 17

Archer and Armstrong vol. 1: The Michelangelo Code (Valiant, 2012)

Collecting issues #1-4

I never read Valiant during the early 1990s, but I have always been aware of it and its quick early – and fleeting – success. I knew the properties were much loved by many, and was vaguely aware that it was being revived of late. Then I've been hearing nothing but good things about the revamp, especially from the hosts of the Comic Book Page podcast, who endlessly trumpet the comics and the company as, at least now in the beginning, “comics done right.” So when I noticed this trade being solicited a few months ago – not the first of the new Valiant – I decided to roll the dice.

I was a little taken aback as I read it to see that at least a certain aspect of the story plays off of the ridiculous and offensive Da Vinci Code phenomenon (I take the historicity of my Faith seriously) – of course, a clue that it is so appears in the very titlebut frankly it's pulled off so tongue-in-cheek and so entertainingly that I find I can't hold that ultimately fleeting element of the plot against it. What you end up with here is a good, solid story that moves right along, issue by issue – there are only four in this slim volume, but those four issues contain enough story that it seems like more – with two surprisingly quickly developed antagonists-turned-partners whose banter had me grinning a good bit of the time. It's graced by nice, clean art that gives this tale a very cinematic air. I definitely will be back for subsequent volumes, and am checking out some of the other revived Valiant titles.

Saturday, March 16

Young Justice Finale

Young Justice (Cartoon Network, 2 seasons, 2010-2013)

I just finished watching (via DVR, a couple hours after it aired), the series finale of Young Justice (a.k.a. Young Justice: Invasion for its second season). It's quite bittersweet.

I unashamedly proclaim that I loved this show. I was a big watcher of cartoons in my youth – who wasn't? – but watched very few in my adult life, mainly just the DC Animated Universe (or “Dini-verse) shows starting with Batman: The Animated Series 'way back in the early 1990s up through Justice League [Unlimited for its third season] a few years ago. The direct-to-DVD animated films that have followed up the departure of those series in the past few years I find very hit and miss, but this late series, although a departure in detail from the traditional DCAU, which had a more or less cohesive continuity, was very much its heir in spirit and may have been of even higher quality – a hit, through and through. I know that I found it consistently enjoyable, with better writing and characterization than a lot of live action TV shows, and frankly presenting a far more palatable “updated” version of the DC Universe than do the comic books themselves in the New 52. I will miss it deeply.

It wasn't a perfect ending by any means – but it was probably the best we could expect since I don't think the creators themselves knew it was coming until too late to do more than possibly tweak the last couple of episodes. It felt a lot more like a cliffhanger leading into a season three that we will unfortunately never see. There is an excellent review already up at IGN (, and I'm sure others will follow.

I could go on and on at how shabbily DC's corporate “sibling” Cartoon Network – they are both part of the Warner Brothers empire – has consistently treated DC properties through the years, but the demise of this show did not surprise me in the least. It saddens me, but does not surprise me at all given the headwinds that it labored against. But all continuing down this path would do is raise my blood pressure uselessly. Instead, I'd rather start the call here:

DC Comics – Continue Young Justice as a digital-first title, Young Justice: Season 3, à la Smallville: Season 11!

Thanks for reading, and Thank you, creators of Young Justice, for two very enjoyable seasons.

Monday, March 11

Gone But Not Forgotten

J. R. Ewing
Well, it was a fitting tribute Episode 8 of the returned Dallas on TNT earlier this evening, from the poignant variation on the opening credits' theme...

 ... through the great wake brawl and the surprisingly touching eulogies, to the final revelations that assure us that John Ross Ewing II may be gone, but the magnificent bastard, the greatest villain in television history, will not soon be forgotten.

Ave atque vale!

Saturday, March 9

Yeah, I'm Still Around....

Late during the week before last, I came down with the worst case of flu that I have suffered in my adult life. For six days straight I ran triple-digit fever, accompanied by chills, achiness, and a general lassitude that has been very difficult getting through. I don't remember ever being this sick for this long, and frankly felt worse than when I had a heart attack a couple of years ago. Sure, that was painful in the event itself, frightening as all get out, and frustrating at being confined to the hospital for several days, but honestly I was not that uncomfortable for most of the period and was in and out of the hospital in less time than I was knocked flat on my back for the better part of last week. Although it came at a very bad time of semester, ramping up toward giving midterm exams this coming week, I ended up missing the entire week of classes and have still felt wiped out most of this week as I try to pick up the shattered pieces of this semester.

One measure of how sick I was is that it wasn't until the sixth day that I could focus my mind enough to read more than short bits and pieces off news sites and blogs. Before that I had a stack of half a dozen comics, all that remained for me to read from my end-of-January box of DC Comics, sitting unread by my bed. Then, it was kind of slow getting my cotton-filled  brain kick-started again. While I could read okay for several days, I was not really able to focus well on framing thoughts into any kind of productive note-taking.

But as I slowly read through those few issues, I discovered something that was reemphasized to me as I also picked up a long set-aside two-volume set of library-bound comics that I'd started well nigh on two years ago, Jerry Ordway's marvelous 1990s series, The Power of Shazam – the simple pleasure of reading for pleasure. Not worrying about taking notes – which like most things I do I end up going obsessive-compulsively overboard with – just reading.