Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

The Week That Was 022523

 Power Rankings, Ads, Shameless Plugs

Power Rankings for October 1996 (cover dated December 1996)

This is a tough month to rank, in large part because everything is so deeply mediocre, with regular artists taking breaks and writers spinning their wheels as the line continues to transition out of one crossover and into the next. 

1. Generation X #22
2. X-Men (vol. 2) #59

Not a ton happens in Generation X #22, but at least Chris Bachalo is having some fun drawing Emma's encounter with Nightmare and Halloween hijinks. Similarly, X-Men #59 is just another "setup a bunch of plots for the future" issue, but Andy Kubert's last outing (ending a run that goes all the way back to issue #14) deserves a nod.

3. X-Factor #129
4. X-Man #22

Both of these gain a little something from narrative relevance, the return of Madrox in the former and the establishment of Nate's new status quo as a New York street healer in the latter. 

5. Uncanny X-Men #339
6. Wolverine #108
7. Excalibur #104
8. Cable #38

A batch of middle chapter or wheel-spinning issues without particular strong art to elevate them (Joe Mad gives way on Uncanny to handful of artists). 

9. X-Men Unlimited #13
10. X-Force #61

X-Men Unlimited #13 isn't great, but it's still better than X-Force #61, the final issue of the Shatterstar "origin" and Jeph Loeb's run at the title that leaves more questions than it answers, an absolute mess of an issue. 


As you most likely noticed, there's ads on the site now. I enabled them mostly out of abject curiosity — for the vast majority of this site's existence, Blogger's built-in ad tool wouldn't allow me to run ads on the site for unknown reasons (I always assumed it was because of how much copyrighted material I published — scans of comic books — and AdSense not understanding the intricacies of the fair use doctrine, but who knows, since it's not like that isn't still the case). Now, suddenly, it's allowing me to, so I figured I'd fire it up and see what happens. 

Definitely leave a comment or shoot me an email if they become excessively annoying or inappropriate. I have a fair amount of control over the type and placement of ads, and can make tweaks. Or just shut them off, because it's not worth making the experience of reading the site a total pain in the ass for a handful of pennies. 

Shameless Plugs

For Comic Book Herald, I reviewed the latest Star Wars Epic Collection, collecting the old Dark Horse comics that led up to the release of Attack of the Clones (I actually wrote the review many, many months ago but then the collection kept getting pushed back and resolicited). I have a lot of nostalgia for that era of Star Wars comics, when the world felt both wider than ever and oddly constrained, but there's no denying the stories, on the whole, aren't terribly good. 

Over at Comics XF, last week I reviewed Immoral X-Men #1 with Mark Turetsky, the beginning of Immortal X-Men's alt-reality run during the "Sins of Sinister" event. 

Finally, for Popverse, I finally formalized the loose ranking of all the MCU films that I've carried around in my head for years and wrote it all down into one massive MCU Rankings piece. Let me know the movie you think I most overrate and/or underrate! 

What Else? 

What I'm Reading
Ezra Klein wrote a great piece about the pandemic revival of Barnes and Noble. In speaking of the allure of Barnes and Noble, he says, "it wasn’t so much a place to buy books as a place to be among them, for as long as you wanted." That's a sentiment that resonates deeply with me, particularly given that I felt it so much that I spent over twelve years working in one, and if not for one particularly weaselly store manager, may well have had made it my full time career. 

I also started reading Oscar Wars by Michael Schulman this week, a book which examines the history of the Academy Awards via the lens of a particular scandal or controversy, one decade at a time. I'm a sucker for history, and the Oscars, and I find his approach to telling the Oscars story a unique one that (hopefully) won't shortchange the full sweep of events along the way, so this ticks a bunch of boxes for me (plus, 'tis the season for this sort of thing). I'm still just in the first decade/scandal, but so far, so good. 

What I'm Watching
The wife and I made it to Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania last weekend, a film I think I enjoyed more than the general sentiment, it seems. I updated my Popverse MCU rankings with my thoughts on it, but I think the big thing I liked (aside from the Kang of it all) is the way it feels like a "mid" comic book story, the kind of story all too common in comic books but far too uncommon in the MCU, which draws from past events and teases future ones without being a big, cataclysmic, "everything changes!" status quo buster. Basically, it felt like another adventure in the lives of these characters, and while it built on past history and left some plot threads to be dealt with later/elsewhere, it's largely self-contained and didn't break or deeply alter the series' storytelling engine. I appreciate that. 

Making our way through the Oscar Best Picture noms, we also recently watched Elvis (which tries really hard to escape the confines of the music biopic structure and almost succeeds, but doesn't quite) and Top Gun: Maverick (which I liked but didn't love, largely because I like but don't love the original; of all the wide and varied 80s movies for which I carry deep and abiding nostalgia, Top Gun has never really been one). I wrote some more (but still brief) thoughts on both on Letterboxd

What I'm Listening To
In between other, more timely podcasts, I've been dipping my toes into Rob Harvilla's 60 Songs That Explain the 90s (which has been expanded to what it always should have been, 90 songs to explain the 90s), which has been a trip, tickling some nostalgia I didn't even know I had for some of the songs which were omnipresent in my middle and high school years. The episode on the Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy" was particularly revelatory, one which gave me a greater appreciation for the song and will ensure I'll never listen to it the same way again. 

— — —

That's all for now. Excelsior!


  1. I got nothing against ads on websites (as long as they're not auto-play video,) although on this particular site it's a little jarring because most ads have white backgrounds, presumably made to blend in with the site itself. With GoL being in permanent dark mode, the result is that the ads "pop" more than expected, to the point where the ads places in between paragraphs of text too-often push the content into the background. Is there an option for ads that border the page but aren't integrated into the text itself?

    The current canceled-X-Men era in your retrospective is sort of quietly fascinating. "Fascinating" because the very idea of the X-Men being so unpopular as to have their book canceled sounds ludicrous by the standards of the past 45 years or so; "quietly" because, well, with no content to explore, there's not a whole lot to be said about it until the All-New, All-Different era comes along to give it some contrast.

    1. Is there an option for ads that border the page but aren't integrated into the text itself?

      Hmm...I thought I'd disabled this after your comment, but now it looks like I haven't. I'll have to dig into it more.

  2. This time period of X-Men is one of my least favorite. The art falls off completely. It will be some time before I really enjoy X-men again....I believe it's when Morrison comes back on when I'm in college, crazy to think. Basically X-Men became spinning wheels between big stories and if those bigger stories did not hit, then the whole year was a bust. My buying dollar is spent mostly on the Wildstorm universe, Green Lantern and CCGs - Overpower, Magic, Star Wars CCG, Star Trek CCG, Middle Earth, etc.

    I have a job at this point spending it on X-Men books that had lost their way wasn't something I cared to do. I eventually picked all of this era up and have read most of it. I'm glad you are covering it because it is some of the books I have the least knowledge about.


  3. I hate the ads but can’t blame you for trying them out.

    Now, I’d been thinking about upping my & Arben’s Patreon tier to five bucks and the ads finally got me to. I like the idea of Substack, Patreon, etc. in concept, as I’ve said here before, yet in practice I only subscribe to a few, don’t use my real name (or nickname), and haven’t launched my own because I’m certain it would be a zero-sum ecosystem at best after subscribing to the feeds of people I know who subscribed to mine.

    That quote about Barnes & Noble resonates deeply with me as well, although I had a slight preference for our local Borders when they existed. I’ve not made it to Barnes & Noble since before the pandemic, as the nearest one is kind-of a shlep and we’re fortunate to have indie bookstores closer, but I do miss the experience.

    I got covid a couple of weeks ago despite continuing to mask everywhere, picking up groceries at the crack of dawn, and generally avoiding people, so I’m still fingers-in-ears 🎶 la la la 🎶 when I see Quantumania referenced.

    You mentioning Letterboxed again reminds me that I’ve thought about getting into it, especially given the rewatch of favorite movies that I began for my fiftieth birthday in 2020.

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  5. Let's try this again with formatting fixed:

    I've fallen behind on keeping up with your X-Aminations since the posts became more sporadic -- which is no fault of yours, but rather my own failure to make time to read an issue when I see a new review pop up. I'm months behind now, and I was only reading along with X-MEN, UNCANNY, GENERATION X, and EXCALIBUR! I need to get back at it.

    I haven't watched QUANTUMANIA yet, but this was nice to see:

    Basically, it felt like another adventure in the lives of these characters, and while it built on past history and left some plot threads to be dealt with later/elsewhere, it's largely self-contained and didn't break or deeply alter the series' storytelling engine."

    You used to see a lot of these cira Phase 2 of the MCU. After all the initial origin movies were out of the way, things like IRON MAN 2 and 3, THOR: THE DARK WORLD, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, and in a way, even AGE OF ULTRON (as I described on Twitter a week or two back) felt like this. Just another "issue" in the onging sagas of the characters, where some things might change, but for the most part everything felt the same by the end as it did at the start, even if there were seeds planted for upcoming stories.

    Hopefully the MCU can move back to that approach. I'm not exactly a fan of pointless filler, and some of the movies I listed above definitely fit that profile, but I am a firm believer that in all forms of serialized fiction, you need some degree of "filler", done well, to make the important stuff feel all the more important. That's one of the thing I have always loved about comic books -- there are definitely any number of awful filler issues out there, usually by guest creative teams, but there are also lots of one- or two-off issues in a run which may not add to the overarching narrative, but are still good, fun engrossing stories in their own right.

    Which on a totally unrelated and out-of-left-field side note is a problem I've had with "peak television" for several years, and why I don't watch as much of it as I used to. I don't know exactly when it started, but at some point all the cable and streaming shows and what-have-you got to a point where every single episode was related to the season's main plot. I fell like earlier on in the "peak" era, you had those sorts of arcs interrupted by ocasional one-offs. Cases-of-the-week, character pieces, whatever. Things that broke up the nonstop juggernaut of the season-long arc and made that arc feel more important when they returned to it.

    End random thought.

    Regarding the ads, I have an ad-blocker enabled, so I'm not even seeing them!


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