Botcon 2014: I spiked the punch!. . .

. . . with my costume, that is. That's right folks, I attended Botcon 2014 this year -- the annual Transformers fan convention -- and I came dressed as civilian Spike Witwicky! I had a beige-ish button-down, jeans, work boots with a yellow hard hat. I also created a prop Soundwave that I could carry around. Here's an image from tfwiki that captures what I was going for, from the episode "Transport to Oblivion."

Botcon started last week Wednesday (June the 18th) and concluded on Sunday (June the 22nd). I was visiting my sister in Los Angeles on vacation so I used the opportunity to pre-register. The website was a little confusing so I ended up pre-ordering a t-shirt and nothing else. It took me awhile to figure out that the cheapest package, the "mini-con" package, was only an add-on package anyways! And even the cheapest package was too much for my blood. I bought a general admission ticket for Saturday the 21st.

In terms of conventions, I got a taste of pretty much everything BotCon had to offer. I've been to Wizard Worlds before in Chicagoland, as well as the smaller, more focused Windy City Comic-Con, but I've never had a fuller experience than the one I had at Botcon. I attended the panels, I walked around the room floor, I gawked at the costumes and I looked at the art. The only things I didn't partake in was the autograph line and the artists' alley.

I attended a few panels: The "Hasbro Transformers Brand" panel, the "Women in Animation" panel and the "Art of Transformers" panel. The Brand panel was an unveiling of sorts, with slideshows of upcoming action figures in the series. Of particular note was the fact that the presentations broke the sector into "pre-school", "boy" and "fan" but the presenter was mindful enough to mention "girl" every time he mentioned "boy," and "daughter" every time he mentioned "son."

The biggest news I recall was the leader class Generations: Megatron as a tank. The powerpoint was pretty cute. When they unveiled the Megatron slide, they played the clip from the 1986 movie, where Megatron's staring down at Optimus and says, "I would have waited an eternity for this Prime! It's over." I've been waiting for a while for Legends class generations: Cosmos with Throttle, but I haven't seen him. . .

In terms of the vendor area, I think I got a pretty good deal. I got a Laser Optimus Prime (RTS edition) and a Generations Wheeljack, for $15 each. I had already snaked my way through most of the vendor area so I figured $15 was the best I could get. Consider my woes when I found Laser Prime for a mere nine dollars at the last vendor booth I visited! I also found a $20 Cosmos, which wasn't a good enough deal for me, and a $100 Masterpiece Grimlock -- I passed on him because I couldn't figure out a way to get him into my luggage. I also saw a $100 Grimlock vs. Bruticus set, which I've been waiting on, but the price is pretty stable so I was OK getting it online.


Here's an example of the fanart. You could submit entries into an art contest and the winners got prizes. You could make dioramas, color art, monochrome art. I was really happy about this section; it's not commonplace to your average comic book convention. Being a subset of comic book fans, Transformers is a lot more warm and cozy a fandom. It's smaller and so everything is more precious. Here's my loot in total, excepting the t-shirt:

Thanks to my sister for helping me with all these photos. We took nearly 50, and to see them all you can check out the photobucket slideshow:

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My Secret Wars, let me show you them (Secret Wars II and Secret War)

Previously, on chezkevin. . .
The Beyonder, that crazy omnipotent cat, got all his Marvel action figures together and hit them against each other. Then Jim Shooter put them in a twelve-issue comic book series called "Secret Wars." Read more here: http://chezkevin.blogspot.com/2014/06/my-secret-wars-let-me-show-you-them-1.html
Now, back to chezkevin. . .

Secret Wars didn't take a long time to churn out a sequel. In fact, the original writer Jim Shooter followed it up with Secret Wars II just a mere handful of months later, in 1985! Al Milgrom takes over the art and the style generally remains the same.

It's a direct follow-up to the Secret Wars, and puts you through the lens of the Beyonder as he attempts to gain understanding of this new human world, Earth, through experience. He becomes a crime boss, befriends a hooker, styles himself after 80s' Michael Jackson, and attempts to find love in a number of stories. Early on, each issue reads like a done-in-one of the Beyonder trying to experience life. There's a lot of re-hashing in each issue.

Eventually his experience becomes so unpleasant that he decides to wipe out all of existence, including his memory of it. It's a weird, non-super-hero story with superheroes, that constantly reminds you of the plight of living in a world of desire and the meaning of a finite life. By the time I got to the ninth and final issue, I just wanted to be done with the repetitive backtracking. You'd have to be a pretty big Marvel fan to like this story. I could do without this.

I wouldn't say Secret War is any better. It was a five-issue miniseries that, due to delays, ran from 2004 to 2005. Brian Bendis wrote it and Gabrielle Dell'Otto painted it.

It's the story of Nick Fury's "Secret War" against a country thought to be America's ally -- Latveria, under the control of Lucia von Bardas. Fury gathers a who's who in the Marvel U., Captain America, Luke Cage, the works.

There are what seems to be four issues of conspiracy that climax in the final fifth issue where you find out what actually happened. If you ask me, the beginning takes way too long to get moving, and this could have taken place in 3 issues or less.

I wouldn't purchase either one of these series with my own money.

I know, battle-damaged Spider-Man. I know

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Batman: The Black Mirror

I've been sitting on The Black Mirror for a while, and its due date is up, so now is a good time to talk about it!

Batman: The Black Mirror
by Scott Snyder, Jock and Francesco Francavilla
collects Detective Comics #871-877

Enter the cockpit into your wayback machine, and you'll remember that, for a while, Bruce Wayne was dead. For a year or three, his ward Dick Grayson took over the cape and cowl as the Batman. In that time, Detective Comics traded hands, and Scott Snyder took over with writing duties, teaming up with Jock and Francesco Francavilla before the DC Universe whacked the television and did a hard reboot.

This collection of eight issues is particularly powerful. I'm really satisfied with it, and it's hard for me to convey all of it to you.Snyder brings up a character from the past, James, son of Commissioner Jim Gordon that covers the major storyarc, over a smearing of smaller storyarcs. It's comics storytelling at its finest. Some of them take three issues, some of them are just one, but all of them create this great atmosphere. It's this intangible thing that comes together with the right colors, the right art and the right words.


Issue 874 really stands out to me. It's broken up into three parts, and tells the story of James meeting his father the Commissioner, while flashing back to this chilling memory of an incident during James' childhood. I've never read a more chilling conversation between father and son. Good job, Francavilla!

BONUS SCANS (mostly cool panels from Jock):

Cool cape in the water. This is from the issue where Batman fought an Orca.


And another one, with shadows. Super neat!

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Hey! It's that Spider-Man guy.


From Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2014), by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

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It's -- it's crazy-town banana-pants!


As told by ghost Peter Parker, witnessing Doc Ock Spider-Man shake the hands of J. Jonah Jameson.

You just read that. Don't blame me, blame Superior Spider-Man, by Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman.

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My Secret Wars, let me show you them (Secret Wars #'s 1-12)

Secret Wars was a 12-issue maxiseries conceived by Jim Shooter with Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. It debuted in 1984, and dare I say, it was one of Marvel's first, genu-wine crossover events. It had the X-Men! It had the Avengers! It had Spider-Man, the Hulk and a host of their villains, including the Wrecking Crew, Molecule Man, Doctor Octopus and most prominently, Doctor Doom.

Check out the sweet collage:

Looking back on it thirty years later and reading through it, I don't think much of it. Indifference is the best summary of my general feeling towards the series. Enchantress sums up my opinion pretty well.

The main plot is that some mysterious, universal and never-revealed force called "The Beyonder" kidnaps Marvel's mightiest heroes and villains and pits them to the death. The Beyonder claims to grant the victors their greatest desire whatever that may be. The designated villains desire your expected things, riches, fame, etc., while the designated heroes just want to go home:
This plot point is repeated several times each issue, and doesn't amount to much of a story. Imagine that you took all your Marvel action figures and banged them up against each other. Now imagine that you put it all in a comic book. No offense to the team, but that's a reasonable approximation of Secret Wars.

Like most modern Marvel events, it wraps up with a bunch of plot points to explore in other titles. She-Hulk replaces Ben Grimm on the Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man gets a sweet new costume:

There's not much story explored in these twelve issues, but if anything, it's a showcase for the power that is Doom. . . Doctor Doom! His is an interesting arc where he diverges from both the heroes and the villains, defeats the Beyonder, then sets out to destroy the designated heroes only to fall at the hands of SPOILER. Most of the characters were written off as cameos, but in this series, you learn about Doctor Doom as a character.

For a huge crossover event with numbers of characters, you could have done worse Marvel. But you certainly could have done better too.

Next: Secret Wars II by Jim Shooter and Al Milgrom.

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Chezkevin vs. Knightquest: Part 2

Previously, on chezkevin. . .
I'm reading Knightfall Volume 2: Knightquest. Read here for the first half.
Now, back on chezkevin. . .

I'm reading Knightfall Volume 2: Knightquest. This is the last half! How many times will Batman almost-kill someone before he decides not to? How many times will he say "The System"? How many times will he say "I dreamt about her last night. I. . . shamed myself."

Only one way to find out!

Knightfall Vol. 2: Knightquest
by too many people to list here
Collecting DETECTIVE COMICS #667-675, BATMAN #501-508, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #19-28, CATWOMAN #6-7 and ROBIN #7
$17 on Amazon

In a word, the next portions of Knightquest are, unremarkable. The plot plods along as Jean Paul takes out the villains that crop up in Gotham City. Along the way he fights an acid man and creates a new, darker costume. Eventually he "kills" Abattoir, the villain obsessed with killing his blood relatives, by refusing to save him. It's not quite a refusal though, as the two voices in his head, the St. Dumas and his father tell him to kill him or save him:
Scott Hanna does a great job inking Graham Nolan, but the rest is standard superhero fare. Bonus panel:
It's all a lead-in to KnightsEnd. Which I'll get to, eh, eventually.

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Thor: The God Butcher and Godbomb

Thor: The God Butcher
by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic
collecting Thor: God of Thunder #'s 1-5

At 139 pages (five issues + extras), this hardcover retails $24.99. Can you believe that? I'm sure the library gets it at a discount, but is unreasonable to get at retail.

The story reads like a murder mystery in three timelines, with three different Thors. It's an exciting, immersive read into the mind of Thor as he investigates who's butchering Gods across the universe.

Literally, it's a butcher, because Thor finds their limbs cut off and their bodies decapitated, faces frozen in agony and terror. The butcher's this alien-ish guy named "Gorr," who's convinced that the gods have failed him and are intent on creating a "godless age." By, eh, chopping off their limbs and heads. Jason Aaron writes the grand dialogue you'd expect from Thor, an intelligent narration and it's drawn meticulously by Esad Ribic. Just check out this panel from issue 3:

It would have been so much easier to just paint in the black, digitally, but Ribic actually draws in the darkness by hand. It's Gorr's "shadow dogs" devouring Thor and Ribic actually drew them in himself! It makes the threat that much more real, when you can see that each stroke is like another animal.

Jason Aaron knows how to write comic books. His lines are great, for example, there's this one about the galactic frontier God that "wrestled black holes just for fun." It's great comic books.

It's a shame the story isn't fully collected in this hardcover. You'd have to pay $50 just to get a full story out of the title. Good stories win new readers. This is a good story. But it isn't a full story.

Thor: Godbomb
by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic and Butch Guice
collecting Thor: God of Thunder #'s 6-11

Butch Guice draws a special 6th issue that clues you in on why Gorr is so angry at the gods. I was at first a little miffed that Marvel needed to pull in another artist to continue the story, but it's not a continuation. Rather, it's a break in the story, and a good one at that. After a life of hardship, the death of his wife to hunger, life in the desert living by the slime of caves and seeing his son die before him, Gorr is convinced that the world is better off without deity(ies) to worship. It's a very humanist way to look at it, when you read about it.

By sheer luck, he happens across this "All-Black the Necrosword. The slicer of  worlds. The "annihilablade" and thus gets his god-killing abilities. After that origin story, Ribic takes us away for the last five issues of the collection that continues Gorr's efforts. Rather than using the Necrosword to butcher gods by hand, individually, he wrenches information from Shadrak, God of Bombs, to create a time-spanning "Godbomb."

It's constructed by gods that Gorr's enslaved and it took 900 years -- after which, Thor meets himself across three timelines to wage battle against Gorr and prevent the onset of the Godbomb.

It goes off anyways, but the Thor from our timeline, Thor the Avenger, performs a deus ex machina and saves all of the gods. Gorr is taken care of and we can resume our religions. Humorously, Thor "dies" for the ninth time in history and wakes back up in 3 days. It's great being a god.

Thor: The God Butcher and Thor: Godbomb tell an exceedingly good story about Thor with some cute commentary on religion. I don't consider myself a Thor fan, but any comic book reader would enjoy the story, and I recommend this very highly. Pick it up if you can.

BONUS PANELS:

When your world's about to end and you're going to enter the greatest fight of your life, what time is it?
Miller time.

Aaron takes a jab at the X-books and gives us a hint at what Thor might think, when he sees that he's become the All-Father, King of Asgard:

Read more:

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The devastating debut (and demise) of Astro Shark

Astro Shark! Scourge of star systems parsecs apart!

 Astro Shark! Beloved companion of the God of Thunder!

Astro Shark! He even gets his own sound effect!

Astro Shark!!!

You were too good for this world, Astro Shark. In memorandum 2013-2013.

Read more about the wacky adventures and derring-do of Astro Shark in Thor: Godbomb, collecting issues 6 through 11 of Thor: God of Thunder, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.

Read more:

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Knightquest: The Crusade to Strangle Robin



I'm sure I missed some panels.

All from Batman Knightfall vol. 2: Knightquest

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Godzilla: Awakening and The Pro


The Pro
by Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner

I bought this on impulse at Comixology a while ago. It was cheap enough, $3.99 for 59 pages so I took the bait.

It's a short graphic novel, maybe published as those half-comic book half-paperback kinds of deals. If you're familiar with Garth Ennis, you'll see plenty of him in the story. If not, this is a good introduction. He's that weird kind of person who very clearly hates superheroes, yet loves them enough to write this story.


The "Viewer," in a cosmic wage against his robot, bets that even the most depraved of human beings are capable of great things. ENTER: The Pro, a single mom who works as a waitress by day, and walks the night by. . . night. She's a prostitute and the "League of Honor," an obvious pastiche of the Justice League take her under their fold. A good, short read. I got a kick out of it.

Godzilla: Awakening
By the Borenstein brothers and Eric Battle

Here's another short graphic novel. It's 80 pages long and. . . can you believe it retails for $19.99???

I downloaded this thing online and was pretty surprised how much I like it. I think it's the length. That sub-100 page length is a great length to deliver a focused, concise story without drawing it out for too long. I've never read a Godzilla comic, but I would expect this to be par for the course. It frames the story from the point of view of one man and his struggle with a world with "Gojira" in it. More than Godzilla, it's about the awakening of the radioactive moth monster, "Shinomura" and its struggle against Godzilla. If I google this guy, he's already taking over deviantart!


 There's the small real-world commentary on our experiments with the A-bomb. Always welcome in a Godzilla story. I'm particularly fond of Eric Battle's layouts, so I wanted to show off some of them. The human crew dive undersea to search for Godzilla, and after hours of searching they give up to re-surface. . . only to show us a huge Godzilla staring behind them as they depart! The trade includes sketch art, so I thought I'd pair the two together:

Another splash page. In this continuity, Godzilla was a monster that lay dormant in the Earth for millions of years, until the Atomic bomb woke it up from its slumber:
How sick is that??

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Spider-Man: Big Time and Transformers: Autocracy

There's a slew of jumping-on points for Spider-Man these days. I'd say any of the Dan Slott story banners would do, Ends of the Earth, Spider-Island. And even better, they've all been reasonably acclaimed.

Spider-Man being the reason I got into comics, I couldn't stay away from it for long. Today we're looking at Spider-Man: Big Time and Transformers: Autocracy.

Spider-Man: Big Time
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #648-651
by Dan Slott, Humbertro Ramos and more

"Big Time" has a bit of a double meaning all things considered. It marks Peter Parker's transition to another job, another apartment and a newer supporting cast. It also marks the title's transition from a team of writers, to only Dan Slott. You could also call it Dan Slott's "Big Time."

The writer's a fan-favorite who grew up a fan of the title, and you can tell. He gets at the core of Spider-Man, and hits the bullet points. It's an optimistic Spider-Man he writes here that's quick to joke, has all-new friends and an all-new non-Mary Jane girlfriend. For once, Peter's used his smarts to get a lucrative research position at Modell Industries, an Apple-esque start-up focused on creating innovative technology based on science.

Slightly more forgettable is the main plot, a new Hobgoblin by the name of Phil Urich. He's a part of this new Goblin movement, that Norman Osborn is somehow fostering from within prison.

This is also the debut of "Sound-proof" Spider-Man, a special costume designed to protect Spider-Man from Hobby's sonic scream. It renders him invisible to soundwaves as well as light waves. A good jumping on point for anyone. It's certainly Spider-Man. Is it my Spider-Man? Only time will tell. . .


Transformers Autocracy
Collects the 12-issue digital series of the same name
by Chris Metzen, Flint Dille and Livio Ramondelli

Take a look at the foreword first, and you'll see it's meant to be IDW's version of an origin for the Megatron characters and Optimus Prime. The former starts as a political insurgent, intent on overthrowing the Autocracy of Zeta Prime, and the latter is a police officer just known as "Orion Pax", following orders. The Great War between Autobots and Decepticons is already underway, so it's a matter of seeing how the characters evolve in the series in this context.

The colors are really washed-out, and the lines are sloppy. It's reminiscent of a Surrogates art style, and sometimes the action is hard to tell.

This was published digitally, presumably for 3 months and was IDW's first foray into the digital-first world for the Transformers franchise. Other than that, there's really nothing digital/tablet-specific about the reading experience.

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