Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Battle Rap Wednesday: Illmaculate vs. Bigg K

Battle of the Bay 6 continues being relevant.  SMACK continues to holler "BARS OVA NAMES!" seven times just because somebody said a hot bar in the middle of a choke.  

That's a cheap shot, but I'm just continuously shocked by how good the BOTB6 battles have been in comparison to every other event this year.  They've got the "names", they've got the young guns, they've got good crowds, great sound, and most importantly: the fucking bars.   It's a full package and if you're a rap fan I can't see how you'd watch any other battles before watching one from this event first. 

This week's battle is another joint where both emcees are excellent and on their A game to such an extent that it really comes down to preference.  The only round I can concretely give to either rapper is Illmac winning round 3.  Other than that I don't really care how you score it.  There's jokes, schemes and punchlines for days in this battle, and if anyone ever wonders why you care about battle rap as a sport, this would be the kind of battle you'd point them to.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Battle Rap Wednesdays: Aye Verb vs. Dizaster

First thing's first: Battle of the Bay 6 is the battle rap card fans have been waiting for all year.  WD4 had shit sound issues.  NOME3 was garbage.  And SM3 had the worst crowd I've ever fucking seen.  (That's why O-Red vs. Big T won't ever be on this site despite my being a pretty big O-Red fan.  Well, that and this.)   But I saw like five or six of the BOTB 6 matches and all of them were the shit.

As usual, Organik kicks it off with one of the most anticipated match-ups: Aye Verb vs. Dizaster.  The battle is debatable based on a couple factors:

- Where you stand on the "bars vs. jokes" shit.  If you're a fan of bars, Aye Verb verbally (hah) destroys Diz in Round 1, and you've pretty much got to give it to him because the first half of Diz's rounds is a bunch of corny perm jokes.   If you like jokes though, Dizaster wins hands down because while the jokes are tired they're still chuckle-worthy.
- How you feel about Dizaster and his rap style.  This is the best I've seen Aye Verb all year--better than against Arsonal (meh) and better than against Cortez...I think.  (Those wack-ass sound issues make it hard to tell.) If you're a fan of the old StreetStatus Verb, the guy who spit lines like this:

"If I hit the Angel Dust, get my anger up/turn Juggernaut, his brain get crushed/shots point blank range BANG he fucked/his soul flying I'm still firing, even his Guardian Angel ducked."

 That guy is back and it almost feels like he never left.   He puts on an amazing, composed performance all three Rounds.

Dizaster actually turned up too.  He can talk shit on Twitter all he wants, but I watched him die against Cortez so he knew what the fuck could happen against Verb and prepared accordingly.  ...But he's still Dizaster, so he's still the guy who haphazardly mixes freestyles and writtens, so you hear lines like this in the middle of his rounds: "Tonight you showed up looking like a bitch today." 

That line, plus something Aye Verb said in his first ("Your lines give niggas the same feeling as when the condom break"), pretty much sum up how this battle is going to go if you're not a Diz fan.   But it's very much an opinion-based deal, with the only fact being that even if you say someone got 3-0'd, you can't say they got bodied without looking like a stan.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

We won't be initimidated by criminal threats...

You ever realize there are some facts about yourself that just set you apart from other people, but in a hilariously weird way?

Yeah, for me, one of the things would be that I honestly think one of the main turning points in my life from child to adulthood, was the day they moved Toonami from weekdays to weekends.  It sounds crazy, but I shall endeavor to explain.

See, I remember when the first Toonami aired back in like, 1997.  I wasn't even ten years old yet.  Cartoon Network had gone from block to block in search of that one, magical afternoon block that would finally catch the eyes of the kids coming home from school.  It wasn't until Williams Street put together a block with the same personality Cartoon Network brought to the rest of its network that things finally took off.


...But to be honest, I fucking hated the first airing of Toonami.  [*shocked gasp*] all you want, but how many of you saw it?  There was no Yu Yu Hakusho.  No Gundam Wing.  No Tenchi Muyo.  No Ronin Warriors, or even Dragon Ball Z.  There were four shows: Thundercats, Voltron, The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, and Cartoon Roulette.  I can say I like it better now, but that would be nostalgia speaking, and nine year old me would probably laugh if I lied like that.

The reality is Toonami didn't become important, at least to me, until they started airing series that Cartoon Network hadn't already aired dozens of times before, like Dragon Ball Z and Robotech in 1998.   But even then, Toonami was still mostly a hodgepodge of series that had already aired--either on Cartoon Network or other channels  (Robotech originally belonged to Sci-Fi's Animation Station, while DBZ was on Fox for years).  It really wasn't until late 1999 (to be precise, September 4th) and early 2000 (again to be precise March 2000) that Toonami finally settled into the juggernaut that it's remembered as, with the dubbing of new Dragon Ball Z episodes and the first airing of Gundam Wing.

I couldn't tell you when specifically, but despite my initial dislike, somewhere between the premieres of Robotech and Gundam Wing, Toonami had turned into a daily institution for me.  It was a reward for finishing another day of school, and part of the routine that comes with being a child: wake up, get dressed, attend school, come home, watch Toonami, do homework, go to bed.  Rinse, repeat.

As Toonami grew more popular with children my age, they added more shows and aired at more times during the week.  Toonami Midnight Run was the proto-Adult Swim, while Toonami Rising Sun appeared just in time to join the death of the Saturday Morning Cartoon era.


The funny thing is, what led to the eventual move of Toonami from weekdays to weekends was that there was a larger target audience in the 13-17 set than there was in the 8-12 set that afternoon block was supposedly aimed at.   The problem was that with Toonami's constant rotation of series, there came a strange sense of "progression".   I said I started watching Toonami just before I turned 10, and that's a key age for a lot of children: it's the start of that prepubescent era for young boys in which they start to outgrow things like toys and cartoons for things like sports and girls.   Our era--my era--chose instead to just do both.  Sure, we gave up toys, but still we watched cartoons, played sports, and started those early, awkward interactions with girls that are the rite of passage for any young male.  This worked out great for us, but not so well with CN's sponsors I'm guessing, which is why the Toonami weekend era began.

When Cartoon Network finally pulled the plug on Toonami weekdays, it disrupted that routine that I'd maintained since I was a young boy: coming home from school to sit down for two or three hours (they never could decide what they wanted, really) to veg out watching action cartoons.   It was such an abrupt change that it was almost like a fog lifted from my eyes and I realized just how many habits I'd shedded and changes I'd undergone in the shift from being a child to being an teenager.

Sure, they moved Toonami to weekends but I knew the problem with that right from the start: it was airing at night on weekends, when even high school kids weren't trying to stay inside.  It was one thing to ask high school kids who are just getting out of class to sit down and watch cartoons for two hours (what else do you have to do?), but it's another thing entirely to ask those same kids to do so on a Saturday, when any teen with a respectable social life was out on a date, at the movies, or even at parties. 

I'll admit to not exactly having an interesting social life, but I knew where I was supposed to be on a Saturday night, and it sure as hell wasn't locked up in my room watching cartoons.  Unwittingly, Cartoon Network had made Toonami, for lack of a less juvenile word, "uncool".  Off the strength of the properties they had Toonami managed to keep going for another four years, but the last two were largely empty husks compared to even the weekend version of the block at its height.  And for me, by then I had long graduated from high school and made the decision to move on from Toonami, even if I didn't necessarily move on from the shows themselves.  The magic was gone--the weekend had been the purview of Adult Swim for three years when they initially moved the block--having Toonami there as well just made it much less special.

In the end, the shifting of Toonami from weekdays to weekends was for me the first death knell of my interest in American television.   Gradually, I would lose interest in first Cartoon Network, then television as a whole, until I eventually created SageTV and finally solved my obsession with nostalgia by being able to examine shows that I'd watched as a child individually, and assess whether they were truly as good as I remembered as a young boy.   As expected some passed and some failed, but I still have to thank both Cartoon Network and Toonami for inspiring me to build a better network for myself, and my friends.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bottom of the Pile: Oct. 20th, 2013

This is late, so I apologize, becomes more annoying the longer you take it.  Anyway.

Aquaman 24

One of my biggest problems with Geoff Johns lately doesn't quite match up with the problems other fanboys have with him.  The guy appears to be full of ideas on what to do with each character in the DC Universe--so full, in fact, that he pings about from character to character, unearthing a well of potential in them before moving on without ever really tapping into it.  Aquaman is yet another unfortunate instance of this problem--after helping the character outsell every Marvel book on the stands for not one, but two months, issue 24 is where Geoff finally shows us the key idea behind his plans for the character...and after issue 25 he's off the book.    It's really a shame as with this issue all the plot points were coming together for the character and I could finally see things heading in an interesting direction that would help to elevate the character for good.
Still and all, on its own merits issue 24 is great, revealing the true story of Arthur's lineage and of Atlantis, with Paul Pelletier's beautiful pencils bringing to life the high fantasy nature of Atlantis' ancient historyThe issue brings forward shocking reveal after reveal, tying together everything Geoff Johns has done so far into a single narrative, with my only real complaint being that, much like Geoff's run itself, this issue is far too short. 

Daredevil 32
Fuck life right now.

That's how I felt when I heard this issue was all of four months away from ending.  One of the most consistently entertaining superhero titles on the stands, Mark Waid and Chris Samnee knock it out of the park again, somehow manging to tie a white supremacy group to Marvel's collection of movie monster characters (that are for some reason dwelling in the South) without making any of it seem ridiculous or out of place. 

Chris Samnee's artwork looks fantastic as usual, managing to take the shift from superhero action to spooky monsters perfectly, with the issue almost taking on a classic, 60's pulp feel in the latter half of the issue. 

Usually I can't stand Halloween issues as they try too hard to be "dark" or "edgy" or whatever, but this one managed to not only strike a perfect tone for Mark Waid's Daredevil, but also effortlessly link to the story Mark was already telling.   The fact that this title ends early next year already disgusts me.

Justice League 24

Okay, to address the haters: Yeah, this comic was a little hilarious.  At least, the earlier parts that delved into Earth-3 Krypton's destruction.  But once Geoff starts giving us a look into Ultraman's mind, things really take off.   With Earth-3 largely a wreck, rather than make the entire issue a flashback, the issue instead starts to show contrast, with Ultraman visiting our Earth's Daily Planet, showing us what it must be like when the villains are truly in charge, ruthlessly tearing through the Daily Planet's employees.

Equally as interesting are the hints dropped about the larger DC Universe.  From the mention of a Doom Patrol to the foreboding, one-panel "BOOM!" we see that leads to the eventual abandoning of Earth-3,  Geoff seeds this issue with ton of plot threads--some that will undoubtedly play out in Forever Evil, but others that may yet have a future in the later years of this new DCU. 

Admittedly, Ultraman can come off like a bit of a caricature, but it makes sense given the context.  There's no "grey" to be had here: the new Earth-3 is the "birthplace of evil" itself.  Everything you see is a twisted, dark reflection of our heroes, and if Superman is the greatest good guy to the extent of being seen as a goody two-shoes, what else can Ultraman be but something that would seem equally as flat to most people?   Solid release, and I look forward to what Geoff has planned with this book for the remainder of Forever Evil.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 28

Even though this series never FELT all that slow or poorly paced, it bears mentioning that for the original Ultimate Spider-Man, it took nineteen issues for Peter to truly become Spider-Man.  For Miles Morales?  28.  Still, the ironically-titled "Spider-Man No More" arc ends not only with Miles finally accepting who he is and taking on the costume and role of Spider-Man once and for all, but with a nice capstone on the series so far, finally revealing to Miles just where his powers came from and how he got them. 

It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of Bendis, but Ultimate Comics Spider-Man has been on point from the very first issue, giving us a believable transition of a boy going from normal pre-teen to someone worthy of inheriting the title of one of the greatest superheroes on the planet.  Bendis even sets up another "team" in the same way the last USM often had Iceman and the Human Torch, with a larger team that boasts both more diversity and a greater potential.  It's actually got me hoping they don't end the Ultimate Universe with whatever's happening in Catacylsm.

Young Avengers 11

Nnngh.  Any week in which this book comes out is automatically a winner, even if the week was already pretty awesome.  As we seem to be barreling towards a final confrontation with the arc villain Mother, our team begins to resort to more desperate measures to battle this gigantic multiverse-level threat.  

Every issue of Young Avengers has been near-perfection, and the largest (and only) complaint I can level towards this issue really comes down to the fact that its doubtful Loki will be sticking around for much longer.  It's not often a supervillain manages to graduate from major/minor annoyance to likable character, but Gillen managed the transition for Loki quite well, and while I doubt we've seen the last of him in this book, there's a good chance the next time we see him it will be in a far more antagonistic role.  Shame.

All in all, while this issue is mostly a "calm before the storm" kind of deal, there's some great moments in this book, from Noh-Varr's...interesting conversations with his exes to Prodigy's planning providing our heroes with a suitable army for what I have to assume is an all-out brawl happening next issue.   It could be easy to accuse this book of being filler, but honestly at this point if you're not in it to see what's happening in these characters' lives as much or more than for the superhero action, you may be missing the point of this book. 

Also: In my dreams I wish I could draw like Jamie McKelvie.  Everything he does always seems to come out so beautifully.  Unfortunately, dreams don't always come true, but at the least I get to pour over the guy's pages in reality every month.