Monthly archives: August, 2019

Non-Doomino Effect: Savage Avengers #1-4 and Daredevil #6-10

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Today, it’s Savage Avengers 1-4 and Daredevil 6-10.

Much like DCeased, I’m not really sure why I picked up Savage Avengers in the first place. As someone who lived through, read comics during, and gave up comics during the worst excesses of the ‘90s, I do not experience ‘90s nostalgia. Yet a book called Savage Avengers that features not only Wolverine, but Venom (!) and The Punisher (!!) just reeks of the worst type of ‘90s nostalgia for over-the-top violence and grittiness for grittiness’ sake.

Oh yeah, and David Finch covers! David Finch obviously didn’t make his career in the ‘90s, but his overly-muscled, overly-hatched Kubert-esque (and not even Adam or Joe, but Andy!) style harkens back to the indulgences of the Image days. I mean just look at the size of the Punisher’s gun on the cover to issue #1 (but in fairness to Finch, he’s at least consistently getting better at what he strives to be good at).

Oh you know what? I now remember exactly why I took a chance on this — Mike Deodato, Jr. He’s evolved into the one of the best artists in comics today, and I would probably read anything he illustrated. Here’s proof!

In spite of the clear call-backs to those ‘90s excesses, though, I’ve found this series pretty enjoyable so far. It’s got a plot that — while making room for violence and slashing and shooting — has its own purpose and doesn’t feel like it exists just for those excesses. Circumstances have drawn this otherwise unrelated hackers, slashers and shooters to the Savage (hence the name) Land, where a cosmic cult attempts to summon a being from the outer edges of the solar system. It’s nothing too special, but the weaving of each character’s path — including the bad guys — is believable enough to feel like the characters are part of the story vs. the story just being there to see Wolverine stab and the Punisher shoot.

The one thing I really don’t care for are the contrived attempts at humor. Fish-out-of-water character contrasts can make for natural laughs, but Duggan’s attempts to leverage Conan for those situations do not work at all. I appreciate the effort to make this something other than dark, gloomy violence, but it’s not working.

Speaking of ‘90s comics, that leads me to Daredevil #6-10, the “No Devils, Only God” arc that follows the supposed death of Daredevil.

There is absolutely nothing overtly ‘90s about this series, but whereas Savage Avengers adopts some overtly ‘90s elements for this otherwise timeless story, this arc of Daredevil reminds me of some of my favorite elements of the less-flashy comics of the ‘90s — somewhat bright and mismatched art adorning earnestly gloomy stories. The inability to really hit the mark on the gloom — in spite of trying so hard to be heavy — sometimes comes off as charming, and this is one of those times.

Matt Murdock is grappling with what it means to leave Daredevil behind, and consequently, so is Mayor Fisk. The parallels are interesting, with much of the action and drama revolving around the story of how _the police_ are reacting and adapting. It’s sort of pulpy but just so committed to telling its story — even though the story just isn’t all that great — and I really admire it for it.

Coming up with new stories for Daredevil has got to be so hard; really since Frank Miller deconstructed the guy, I feel like every writer has had to essentially react to “Born Again,” either by embracing it (Bendis, Brubaker) or pushing hard against it (Waid, and to an extent, Diggle). Zdarsky’s take manages to be familiar without feeling overly constrained by what came before, and I respect it for that.

Non-Doomino Effect: DCeased 1-4

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Up next, DCeased 1-4.

I hate zombie stuff.

I used to be sort of indifferent to it, but then there was that phase in the 2000s where Marvel zombified everything, and it just let me to hate the stuff. So I have honestly no idea why I even took a chance on DCeased. Maybe it was a slow week?

But I’m loving DCeased. For the uninitiated, DC’s take on zombies is based on the idea that the anti-life equation is unleashed on humanity, and it spreads through blood and screens. Funny enough, I also tend to really hate things related to Darkseid and the New Gods. Maybe these things are canceling each other out?

I’ve honestly been giving some thought to why on earth I am enjoying this, in spite of my previously stated inclinations against precisely the things this story is about, and I suspect that it’s all about the underlying hope in this series. Don’t get me wrong — this is as bleak, terrifying and gut-wrenching as you would expect from a zombie story, as loved ones turn, families are torn apart, and lives are irrevocably changed by tragic moments.

But there’s an underlying “Ok, things are terrible — so what are we going to do about it?” that propels the story forward and that I find engaging.

I don’t want to get too spoilery on this, but if you’re like me and find yourself typically staying away from a genre that seemed tired 10-15 years ago, this is a surprisingly fun series so far.

Non-Doomino Effect: Thanos 1-4

Because of work trips and other general busyness, I fell behind on virtually every comics series I was buying, which then impeded my ability to get back on a weekly schedule. These Non-Doomino Effect entries will be an attempt to chip away at the stack so I can get back to the normal routine. Up first, Thanos 1-4.

I had been reading the Thanos series by Jeff Lemire and Mike Deodato at some point in the past few years (they all kind of blur together) (the years, that is) (well, and the comics too) and loved it, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure when that ended and a new one began. Last I really remember, Thanos was dying? But then in one of those other events, I believe Gamora chopped off his head. I do remember him being dead and headless, because that condition seemed to be a catalyst of the new Guardians of the Galaxy series, which I’ve been enjoying.

This series–while titled Thanos–really seems to be an origin-of-Gamora series that just so happens to revolve around Thanos. You’ve got the mad Titan and some “young” members of the Black Order (Ebony Maw and Proxima Midnight to be exact) drifting rather aimlessly–both literally and emotionally–through space, killing people but just not really feeling it. Then this young prisoner/adoptee enters the scene and complicates things for everyone.

So far it’s really kind of a charming story of the genocidal Thanos and his adopted daughter, getting a sense of each other in spite of their terribly misaligned pasts. Tini Howard has so far done a great job with the tone, as that tension can be hard to pull off and hard to keep from teetering into odd-couple humor.

I don’t really remember buying this, but I’m going to keep buying it. Good stuff.

G1 Climax Block A: Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

Okada has grown on me over the past year or so, but I still can’t get over how the profile photo that NJPW uses in the match promotion cards make it look like he’s pushing out a fart.

ZSJ has the most incredible heeling physical charisma. When Okada isn’t making his Rock impersonation faces, he has these fantastic expressions that so infectiously pull you in; but then shortly after he lets his guard down, he quickly pivots back into some contorted fart face with an awkward attempt at an eyebrow raise.

The announcers set the stage by pointing out these two are 1-1 against each other.

ZSJ quickly goes for submission attempts, which is such a great way to quickly establish him as a legitimate threat, given their physical differences. I know some people can’t get over ZSJ’s comparative scrawniness, so I think even though it’s unfortunate, it’s nice when the threat he presents can be established early.

And do they ever do that — ZSJ almost catches Okada early with both submission holds and submission holds turned into pin attempts. Sabre just chips away at people; it’s amazing to watch. One of my favorite things he does when his opponent is down is to just toy with them, kicking them while they’re squirming around on the mat. It’s totally unnecessary and not even damaging, but such a punk thing to do that mostly just communicates what kind of guy you’re up against.

Okada gains a little momentum and goes for a Blackjack, but Sabre reverses it into a Guillotine. Okada goes for the Rainmaker relatively early, with the announcers declaring he’s on his way to going 2-0. Then he lands the Tombstone, but Sabre reverses a Rainmaker attempt and turns it into an incredible Octopus.

In college at parties I used to drunkenly convince other drunk people to let me apply Figure Four Leg-Locks and the Walls of Jericho. I hope that college kids these days are applying Zack Sabre Jr. holds at parties, but in fairness they might be too complicated to pull off after a few drinks. I’m only about 75% drunk now and I can’t figure out how he pulled off these contortions, and that’s just looking at the TV.

Okada uses his power to regain the momentum again, but just as quickly Sabre uses his speed and squirminess to apply submissions converted to pinning positions out of nowhere. And Sabre turns another Rainmaker attempt into another Flying Octopus. This is nuts!

But Okada hits two Rainmakers in a row, and that ends that. Okada is now at four points, and ZSJ has none. That was a fun match, but I felt like it actually could’ve gone quite a bit longer. The crispness and speed of ZSJ’s comebacks never quite diminished, so the finish felt a little premature. Still, absolutely worth watching.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Will Ospreay vs. Sanada

This should be good. Ospreay is the best around, and even though Sanada isn’t really at that level, he should definitely be able to keep up well enough. I’m really hoping the NJPW / ROH partnership falls apart soon so that Ospreay could do some AEW events. This guy could be a major breakout star (for some company other than WWE). In WWE, they’d probably have him be like Downton Arby or Doctor How.

Kelly brings up Ospreay’s Lucha training and parallels that with Sanada’s time wrestling in Mexico, and that aligns with the two wrestlers showing their balance in the ring with an evenly matched opening flurry that leads to a standoff that gets the crowd going.

I love the light storytelling and crowd-nudging gestures they use in New Japan; the crowd seemed evenly split during that standoff, so Sanada comes out of the standoff by offering a handshake, which Ospreay gingerly accepts … only to be suckered by Sanada. Unlike the usual WWE suckerings of babyfaces, this was no pivotal moment leading to losing the advantage or even losing the match — it was just a quick exchange that dropped an important cue to the crowd.

I guess it doesn’t really work; Sanada gets Ospreay trapped in the ropes with the Paradise Lock and plays to the crowd, and the crowd responds with cheers. Sanada keeps the pace slow in these early minutes, with a lot of submission holds and deliberate chipping away at Ospreay — but then Ospreay finds openings to spring out of nowhere with an amazing sequence. It’s a great example of how different styles can tell an interesting story through their contrast and the clarity of the momentum shifts.

After some quick exchanges, the crowd is now chanting Ospreay’s name, but Sanada holds his own with Ospreay’s increased pace and answers accordingly. An awesome exchange of holds, finishing move attempts and reversals is even more impressive partially based on what appears to have not worked — in a few of the quick exchanges, it looked like maybe some aim was off or grasps were missed, but these two are so good that they immediately recovered and did so in a way that seemed totally natural, as opposed to “Oh oops I missed my spot, so let me very unnaturally get back into position.”

These two put together an amazing sequence leading to an Ospreay powerbomb, but Sanada kicks out at two. Ospreay lands a shooting star press (that looked a little short, to be honest) and Sanada kicks out again. But Ospreay goes for a Stormbreaker that Sanada beautifully reverses into a Skull End. Ospreay lands the (not super impressive looking) Robinson Special into an Os Cutter and finally hits the Stormbreaker for the win.

Fun match that earns Ospreay his first two points, and the announcers make a point of emphasizing the significance of Ospreay scoring for the first time in this heavyweight tournament. Sanada may not get any points out of this, but he still comes out of the match looking strong.

G1 Climax 29 Block A: Lance Archer vs. Bad Luck Fale

Man, Bad Luck Fale is lame. Fat, slow, boring and he sucks too. I wouldn’t be watching this match if not for a desire to watch all the tournament matches. Archer really impressed me in the opening night match against Ospreay, so maybe he’ll make this watchable.

Not sure who is supposed to be the face in this match, though; both seem determined to be as unlikeable as possible. I realize over the course of the block there are going to be several heel vs. heel matchups, but I was curious if they’d try to subtly encourage fan preference.

The announcers aren’t concerned about reaching the 30 minute time limit. “We’ll be lucky if we get to 10.”

I realize screaming “EVERYBODY DIES!” is part of Archer’s gimmick but he really overdoes it. It doesn’t come off as scary or threatening but just like somebody pulled the Lance Archer doll’s string again so he’s saying “everybody dies” again.

So far this match is just lazy, slow-motion brawling. I’m considering stopping it early. Considering I’m about a month behind on this tournament, this feels like maybe something I don’t need to watch. I appreciate the polite in-person crowd still gently applauding Archer’s slow climb to his feet.

Following up on the earlier topic, Archer isn’t working face at all, but presumably due to Fale’s terribleness the crowd has started lightly supporting Archer. “What world am I living in,” Kevin Kelly asks. “People are actually starting to cheer Lance Archer?”

Fale’s so bad that a standard superplex is exciting because he’s actually doing something other than just walking around slowly.

Archer’s doing a good job of waking the crowd up. This guy seems like he could come out of this tournament a new main-event star in New Japan. That was an interesting finish — pinning Fale by squeezing Fale’s head and essentially having the shoulders down incidentally.

Archer is now at 4 points, Fale holds at 2.

G1 Climax 29: July 13 overall thoughts

I had lower expectations for this show compared to the July 6 show, given the makeup of Block B, but the matches I most thought would be entertaining (Moxley, Naito) were kind of duds. I guess I should’ve expected as much considering the matchups, at least with Naito.

Cobb vs. Ishii was great, but I think I might actually give White vs. Goto my match of the night. Ask me tomorrow and I might go with Cobb vs. Ishii.

G1 CLIMAX 29: July 13
Watch: White vs. Goto, Cobb vs. Ishii
Consider: Robinson vs. Takagi
Skip: Moxley vs. Taichi, Naito vs. Yano

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Hirooki Goto vs. Jay White

Man, Block B sure seems weaker when this is the main event, and the main event in the previous show was Tanahashi vs. Okada.

I’m not a big fan of Jay White’s beard. He’s got that problem where the mustache and the beard don’t connect, and it just makes the overall beard thing less intimidating, like maybe he’s going for a 19th century Frenchman look. It also somehow makes him look younger, not in a good way. His heel charisma is still fantastic though.

I realize it was mostly due to Kenny Omega’s departure and the decision to transfer his story to White, but I feel like White was maybe hurt a little by having such an inconsequential championship run so early in his rise. He’s so good, but rising and then falling so quickly makes him feel a bit like a fluky flash in the pan. And it makes the weasely heat he’s trying to generate against Goto feel a little midcardish.

As soon as I type that, though, he turns on the credibility and the danger. This is the style I really like in White — he’s so menacing and almost surgical in the way he swiftly picks at opponents. I love when wrestlers can project their personalities through wrestling moves.

(I am kind of getting tired and want to go to bed but I have a feeling they’re going to make the most of their time opportunity here.)

Good stuff here as White just smacks the back of Goto’s head like a total jerk. Beautiful. I think White actually looks like he’s lost some muscle mass since his title run. He was looking a little oversized for a while though.

Nice turn in the story as White is still outsmarting Goto, but Goto’s perseverance is breaking through the advantage. White’s still taking him apart, but Goto isn’t staying down.

Bladebuster and a nonchalant cover lead to a two-count, but I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if they actually let that be the finish. I think we’re seeing a good story of White proving to be just as dangerous and menacing as ever, and a clean win — as unhappy as the crowd would be — would me a good statement and set the stage well for the threat of Jay White in this opening night for the B Block. Plus the crowd doesn’t seem as hot for Goto as they are opposed to White.

White’s gloating leads to Goto’s revival, and at least now the crowd seems behind him. Good back and forth sequence with some really awfully executed near-falls from the always awfully-executing Red Shoes. The guy milks a 2.999 count so far past the point of believability. I realize that’s part of his charm but it can really disrupt an otherwise beautifully wrestled match.

Another beautiful sequence of reversals, and two brutal moves from Goto but I missed the name of both of them. Totally didn’t think White should’ve been able to kick out of either. But Goto has the crowd super hot and times the GTR just right for the win and the 2 points. I was all for a White win earlier, but that was a pretty flawlessly executed finishing sequence.

That wraps up the second night of the G1 Climax, first night of Block B.

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Jeff Cobb vs. Tomohiro Ishii

I didn’t really notice Jeff Cobb until the NJPW/ROH MSG show on Wrestlemania weekend when I thought “How have I missed this guy?” I also thought “How has Ring of Honor won the contract battle?” And Ishii is awesome. I’m really looking forward to how these two match up given their builds and styles.

Cobb shows off his strength early, but Ishii balances with his ferocity. I like the story here though, where Cobb just throws so much power at Ishii, Ishii retaliates with tenacity, but Cobb just has too much.

There’s a spot in this match where Cobb and Ishii just trade forearm after forearm for like a minute and it just keeps going. It wears me out watching it.

Cobb’s really something special to watch — the way he pairs speed with his insane strength. Also I’ve never really understood how people with such big guts can be so fast or have such good cardio. Or do standing flips.

The story of Ishii being unable to withstand the beating continues, with Cobb’s strength and speed compounding the damage. But that just builds up to a Hulk-up moment where Ishii begins leaning into Cobb’s bludgeoning and ends up building to a superplex. Cobb responds with a Hulk-up and superplex of his own though.

I am really enjoying the build of Ishii from underneath here; Cobb still has the strength advantage, but whereas it seemed earlier like that was going to be too much, Ishii is wearing him out to where the strength advantage is getting slimmer and slimmer. And now the tenacious old man may have outplayed his stronger and faster opponent.

Cobb blocks a lariat attempt, Ishii reverses that into a suplex, goes for a pin and has his cover attempt result in getting launched halfway across the ring — this sequence where either man could gain the upper hand is fantastic. More cover attempts, more near-falls and kick-outs, more counters and reversals — until Ishii lands the vertical brainbuster for the win.

Fantastic match, and both men came out looking great — Cobb just came up short this time. It should be fun when both of them meet up with Moxley later.

G1 Climax 29 Block B: Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano

Will they do two relative squashes in a row? I hope so!

I much prefer Naito’s “too cool for school” demeanor over Okada’s; Okada’s is always just a little too much “Who farted?” for my tastes. I love Naito’s ridiculously cocky 70s attire here, and it’s a nice trick to let Yano fill the space with his clowning so Naito can slowly transition from glitter suit to wrestling clothes.

30 minutes are on the clock. Let’s see if we can do this in one.

Yano is lucking his way through survival with a few surprise survival spots and almost rolls up Naito for an unbelievable couple of near-falls.

Holy cow. Toru Yano pinned Naito. I wanted a short match, but that’s not what I expected or really had any interest in seeing. His first G1 win since 2014 and it’s over Naito.

(For what it’s worth, the announcers are doing a great job of selling the story that Naito looked past Yano and maybe now he’ll learn to take each opponent seriously. New Japan is so good at making everything count, even when it’s something stupid like Toru Yano pinning Naito.)