Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ranked

Marvel’s been putting out movies and TV shows in its connected universe for almost a decade now, to generally high acclaim. They’ve had a few misses here and there, but their worst movies are still better than half of DC’s offerings, so let’s not get too worked up about it.

For the purposes of this list, I’ve put some parameters in place. First of all, I’m only ranking the theatrically-released Avengers movies, and the full Netflix series of the Defenders characters. I’ve watched 3 seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with varied enthusiasm, but ultimately decided against ranking those seasons. Likewise, I only watched a handful of episodes of Agent Carter and didn’t care for it, so I didn’t finish it. Inhumans and Cloak & Dagger both look interesting but I’m going to put them in the same camp. I think the level of their production quality (the TV shows) is beneath the threshold of the Netflix properties or the big screen films.

If you’re still reading, here’s my ranking.

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The more I think about it, the less of a contest it is. So far, TWS is the best Marvel movie. No plot is airtight, and the idea that half of S.H.I.E.L.D. is composed of Hydra soldiers presents some logistical problems, but the delivery and reveal of that twist blew me away on the big screen, and was executed to perfection. On top of that, we see Cap realize that he’s not exactly allied with the good guys, and he had the courage to go after both factions when they were wrong. A timely lesson indeed.
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. Just wow. Marvel took a barrel full of lesser-known characters and gave them more heart than almost any other roster in the MCU. The graphics, the humor, the music, and the ultimate story centering on the meaning of fatherhood and love…I’m sorry but I’ve never seen that in a space opera before, and had it hit me so hard. Superb.
  3. Captain America: Civil War. My post-theatrical impression was AHHH, THE PERFECT MOVIE! I’ve felt this way before about other Marvel films, which speaks to the skilled execution by the cast and directors. Once the high wore off, I would figure out some of the flaws. I think the plot was tighter than a lot of critics claim, and made a lot of sense. It just gets bumped down on the list because it’s slightly less of a Cap film and slightly more of a broad-roster Avengers film wherein Cap just gets the most screen time. Still immensely epic.
  4. Iron Man. With The Dark Knight still looming on the summer schedule, I didn’t expect this one to seize my attention as much as it did. It was our first taste of a well-rounded character with a healthy serving of humor, mixed in with the elements that would eventually make the hallmarks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The guys at Marvel probably didn’t even know what they’d unleashed at this point, but 9 years later, this film still holds up.
  5. The Avengers. Like Iron Man, it holds up even five years later, with its mix of all the right elements. To top it off, it pulled off a highly ambitious achievement with soaring colors, and solidified crushes on Tom Hiddleston the world over.
  6. Captain America: The First Avenger. An excellent period piece that introduced one of the lesser-liked (if still better-known) comic characters, and turned him into a widely emulated icon for his traditional patriotic values. Despite following the initial Marvel movie mold (good guy and bad guy have the same powers, but different values) it still found its footing and made a name for itself quickly, setting up the best trilogy (so far) in the entire MCU.
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy. There is nobody who expected this movie to be as good as it was. An entire generation discovered a mixed tape of rock hits from the 1970s, and even though the zealot villain and MacGuffin plot were nothing super original, the characters and execution definitely were.
  8. Daredevil (Season 1). Honestly, the bar wasn’t very high after the Affleck debacle from 2003. Still, the present-day MCU operators took this property and breathed new life into it with vigor, to the point where a large portion of its viewers were almost disappointed when Matt Murdock shed his DIY costume for the more iconic armor of the comics. Add in Vincent D’Onofrio as the villainous Kingpin, and you have an on-screen powerhouse. My only knock was that it went overboard on the violence several times in the first half of the season.
  9. Spider-Man: Homecoming. Finally! It only took 13 years, but we got another great Spider-Man film, and with a villain we’ve never seen before! Not only was the teenaged Peter Parker highly believable, the Vulture was an excellent, grounded, blue-collar villain with whom I could actually sympathize…right up to the part where he decided he didn’t give a crap about killing people. And come on…the state-mandated Cap videos at school stole the show.
  10. Doctor Strange. This was among Marvel’s more ambitious attempts, and without Cumberbatch, I think it would have fallen flat. That said, he played the character to near perfection, and even though the plot followed the formula of bad-guy-has-same-powers-but-is-evil, Kaecilious’s motivation was more profound than other cookie-cutter villains in the franchise.
  11. Luke Cage. This one worked on a lot of levels, as an insight into both a location and a demographic of which I have never been part. One of the other parts that worked well was the fact that I didn’t know much about it going into the pilot, beyond Luke’s appearance in the first season of Jessica Jones. If I have any complaints, it’s that it moved slow, and while that worked often, it really needed to pick it up in a few parts. The jazz music was rich and used well, much like the rock music in Guardians. Diamondback was another unique villain, even if his costume at the end was a little bit…weird.
  12. Daredevil (Season 2). I was really revved up for this after season 1, and while I still liked it, I think it bit off more than it could chew. It was almost two seasons in one, with the Punisher arc and the Elektra arc, even though they intersected a few times here and there. While the ninja stuff was cool, I felt like later in the season it struggled to find its identity, and the decay of the hero’s personal life is never a fun journey to watch, even when it’s credible. Still, the characters shined, especially the Punisher. Much like the first season, the violence went overboard more often than I would have liked.
  13. Ant-Man. Like Guardians, this is among the more humorous entries in the MCU, even if the plot is really pedestrian, and the villain was little more than a beardless Obadiah Stane who lived farther up the California coast. But it set up a lot of really good stuff, including the WASP in a future volume.
  14. Avengers: Age of Ultron. This was another film that I thought was wonderful after I left the theater, only to spot its flaws later. It still works as an awesome spectacle, but falls victim to corporate control as Disney forced Joss Whedon to shoehorn a ton of stuff into it that distracted from the central story. I admit to being a little confused and even annoyed when Vision showed up. He was almost the hardest part of this to accept, but the Russo brothers put him to good use in Civil War. I liked it, but it had problems.
  15. Iron Man 2. Another one that I liked because it was fun and cool, despite getting a little big for its britches. Whiplash was a bad villain, but Mickey O’Rourke did a good job with him, and of course Sam Rockwell plays an excellent corporate tool. It worked a little bit as a sequel to its great predecessor, though its function was clearly to help segue the franchise into a future Avengers conglomeration.
  16. The Incredible Hulk. I liked this one better than a lot of people gave it credit for, and Edward Norton was far better in the Bruce Banner role than Mark Ruffalo. What started as a cerebral story later devolved into a smashfest, which was fine and fun to watch, but did very little to advance Banner’s personal arc.
  17. Iron Man 3. I feel like Tony Stark’s story here was a little bit of a rehash from the first two, as well as what he did in Avengers. We get it Tony, you’re a mess. This is a story about a guy you were mean to coming back for revenge. Like the HISHE video points out, it’s pretty much an MCU version of The Incredibles, with slightly less hard than its predecessors. The change of directors really showed.
  18. Thor. What a perfectly average installment whose only purpose was to get one of the three pinnacle members of the Avengers on the big screen, so that they’d have an excuse for him to be in the real movie next summer, along with that movie’s villain.
  19. Jessica Jones. This one had flashes in the pan, real moments of greatness from a good number of its characters (like Jessica, Kilgrave, Trisha, and Luke Cage). Then it went off the rails, focusing on Jeri Hogarth’s pointless affair and divorce arc, or giving far too much screentime to the incestuous ginger twins who lived in Jessica’s building. Kilgrave was a top five Marvel villain, and Jessica definitely had her hands full dealing with him. That part of her story was great. The rest of it (seriously, how many scenes to we need of her and Luke power-boinking her bed into splinters?) was trying too hard to be edgy or dark, and lost its purpose. Where Daredevil was often over-violent, Jessica Jones was in equal measure over-sexual.
  20. Thor: The Dark World. Wow. This movie only got made because it had to. And about the only relevant part of it for the MCU at large was the fact that the villain was using an Infinity Stone, which won’t be relevant on screen for a few more years. Boring story, boring acting, and only a few laugh-out-loud moments…all of which were sparked by side characters whose main career work is on TV sitcoms. To date, this is the only MCU movie I didn’t bother to see in the theaters, because it just didn’t look like it was worth it from the trailers…and I was right.
  21. Iron Fist. If Thor 2 was boring and pointless, Iron Fist stands alone on an island of awful. It was mooning-the-crowd-at-a-preschool-graduation bad. This thing had no idea what it was trying to be, trying to accomplish, or trying to go. I can’t give you a solid breakdown as to why, without outright parroting Larry Correia’s shakedown of it, which is pretty detailed. They really dropped the ball with this one.


So that’s my rankings so far. In a few more months, we’ll get another Thor movie, which so far looks like it’s carved from the same stuff as the Guardians flicks. Then we get another Avengers movie next year, plus Black Panther and Ant-Man and the Wasp. I’m revved up. I’ll update this as they come out.

I once resisted reading Harry Potter, and I’m glad I changed my mind.

Hi guys.

Recently the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Yes, it has a different title in the UK. No, I don’t care.) Obviously it’s been a huge literary success and a cultural bulldozer, and for good reason.

I, like many people, resisted the craze for a number of years. The mania hit my hometown of Henderson around 1999/2000. That’s when I noticed friends and family feverishly consuming the first three books, which were out at the time.

I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone reading these childish books about a magic kid who flew on a broom at wizard school and went to weird places called “Azkaban” or whatever. That sounded like a fake Middle Eastern place. I was more interested in reading Michael Crichton at the time, because I was a Grown Man.

My parents tried to persuade me to read them, to no avail. This was my “rebellious” phase. If my parents and sister liked it, it must be stupid, right? Then my Mamaw tried to persuade me, and I more kindly turned her down, because what kind of savage ingrate sasses his Mamaw? She even mentioned that my super-cool tough guy Uncle Paul thought they were great. Nevertheless, I resisted.

Two more books came out before I went on my mission in 2003. Near the end of my time in Spain (where the books were still everywhere), a family gifted me a copy of Harry Potter y la Orden del Fenix, because they knew I was collecting books in Spanish to read at home. (I had already acquired a complete set of The Lord of the Rings  and Las Aventuras del Capitan Alatriste.)

As much as I wanted to hold on to my stubborn pride, I couldn’t rightly turn down this generous gift of a 900-page hardcover, so I accepted the book and didn’t tell them that I hadn’t yet read the previous four novels even in English. I went home, started reintegrating into American/English-speaking life, and dug into books again.

My then-girlfriend was, like most people, over the moon for Harry Potter, and her persuasion was the final nail in the coffin of my obstinate desire to resist this cultural wave. Like Wesley Crusher, I gave in and plugged into The Game.

After the first few chapters of Sorcerer’s Stone, I was intrigued. By the end of the book, I was quite impressed. Chamber of Secrets picked up the ball and kept running with it. Prisoner of Azkaban nuked the last shreds of my will, and I started to have dreams about being in the wizarding world, wielding a wand, casting spells and whatnot…

This was a new sensation for me. I never got into books like that. Dreams just didn’t happen, not even with books I was obsessed with. I killed the first six books in about a three-week span, and read the Spanish version of book five the following summer. Then began the long, drawn-out wait for Deathly Hallows, which would release on my 23rd birthday.

In the years since, I’ve re-read the whole series twice, and now my nephew is on his (third or fourth) trip through the books. For a kid who wasn’t even born until the seventh book had already come out, that goes to show their staying power.

But what is it about these books that makes them so magnetic? And can those parts persuade those who resist, as I once did?

Let’s examine.

  1. The Harry Potter books take something that young readers generally dislike–school–and make it impossibly cool. Any kid who hates getting up and going to school in the morning would gladly transfer to Hogwarts to learn magic. I think this is one reason why the series was so successful with an otherwise impenetrable demographic: young boys.
  2. Throughout the entire series, Rowling bowls you over with well-hidden twists. This, if nothing else, is a hallmark of the HP novels. While the villain reveal in book 1 might have been somewhat visible, the methodology of it was hidden well, and this trait continued throughout all seven books. Each of them had one huge twist–and several smaller ones along the way–that constituted a huge payoff for everything to come before it.
  3. The characters are quickly identifiable and convincingly real. If the school component makes the series accessible to young readers, the development of the adult characters is what makes it click for older readers. It’s a multi-generational series, with just as much weight for the parents and caretakers in the story as for the younger characters. While young readers identify with Harry’s displacement, Ron’s poverty, or Hermione’s nerdiness, older readers can relate to the burden on Professors Dumbeldore and McGonagle, the missed opportunities and stolen years of Sirius Black, or lifelong grudge held by Severus Snape.
  4. The world is a dangerous and heavy as it is cozy and inviting. Yes, there are dark wizards all over the place, and while the overtones of fascism, zealotry and ethnic purity can be all too real at times, they’re offset by the safe places in the book, like Hogwarts, the Burrow, Hogsmeade, and even #12 Grimmauld Place. This is why our world spends millions of dollars every year to go to Universal Studios and sit in a Harry Potter-themed restaurant, drinking butterbeer out of a keg and soaking in the ambiance. You’re transported there and it feels almost palpably real.
  5. Each new book dumps a fresh load of problems into your lap, as well as new places, new history, new conflicts, new magic, and new creatures. As a writer, I found this highly impressive, that a read-through of all seven books demonstrated Rowling’s mastery of her own world, and her ability to keep building on it in such a way that it stays clear and structured in the reader’s imagination. Over three thousand pages of fantasy fiction, and every spell, every scene, every interaction between these characters stays fresh in the mind, as if you had been there yourself to experience it.

Ultimately, I can’t twist anyone’s arm and make them read something they don’t want to. That’s not my aim. There are plenty of authors out there who are widely successful and enjoy the admiration of my peers, but I don’t particularly like their work or understand the hype. (Full confession: I don’t think Neil Gaiman’s books are all that great. I’ve started 6, finished 4, and liked 2. Granted, those two were brilliant, but the rest…I don’t get it.)

But, if any of the people who proudly celebrated #HP20 by announcing their longstanding resistance to it–and their decision to maintain that resistance–read this and finally decide to take a crack at it, well…hopefully they like it as much as I did. I’m glad I finally caved in the end.

I promise there’s a good reason for this.


I was perusing old drawings in my folder and found this one from several years ago–maybe 2012, I unfortunately didn’t put a date on it–and realized I had forgotten about it.

It was one of my first attempts at combing a few regular images I’d traced in CorelDRAW, which was the poor Canadian attempt at re-creating Adobe Illustrator at a lower price and higher bug count. For reasons I cannot feign to recall, I attempted a fusion of Clint Eastwood and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, called (wait for it) “Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle.”

But Graham! Why did you do this? You monster!

The manuscript I was working on at the time was, I think, called RESOLUTE. It was about high school football in Oklahoma…with gargoyles. (I have scrapped this idea and occasionally think of ways to salvage it, but I am not hopeful.) Anyway, I kept coming to certain scenes that got wildly distant from the story I was trying to tell, and I had no idea how to corral them back together. So I drew for a while to clear my head.

C.E.N.T. was the eventual product of one of these brain-clearing sessions, and suddenly I had a thought: I knew where I wanted the story to go, I just didn’t always know how to get there. When I reached those junctions on the story-map, Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle would arrive on the page, take my main characters by the hand, and escort them through that scene or chapter (with a brief paragraph, highlighted in red so I could find it) and tell them where to go from there.

This is a terrible thing to do in final drafts, but a very nifty trick for early drafts. Good Old Clint hasn’t shown up in any of my early drafts for a while now, but he was there in spirit when I worked on THE KORBADELL JOB a few months ago.

Since Clint Eastwood is a real person and the Ninja Turtles are a copyrighted property, there’s no way in hell I can lay any sort of legal claim to either of these figures, nor do I really care to. I’m just putting him out there for my fellow writers to use as needed. If you’re bogged down in an early draft, let Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle save the day! Write him into that paragraph!

Fade in. “And then C.E.N.T. showed up to grab Bella by the hand and said ‘You’re gonna keep trying to hook up with that sparkly, wimpy vampire, even though that hot shirtless wolf-dude isn’t trying to kill you, punk.’ And he led her to Edward, for…reasons. ‘We’ll come back to that. Cowabunga.'” Fade out.

Or, more likely, you’re a better writer than I am and this doesn’t happen to you in draft one. So leave him here and go enjoy your uncomplicated, unfrustrating writing life, you terrible demon you.

Carry on.

Should-Reads: SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel

Image result for sleeping giants sylvain neuvel

Sylvain Neuvel’s SLEEPING GIANTS is like the book version of a found-footage film, written almost entirely in dialogue, as though from transcripts of recorded interviews. My wife read the ebook and I listened to the audiobook; I frequently found myself wondering if I would have properly read the inflection and tone in print, given how well the narrators performed their different characters.

Premise: A young girl falls into a hole in the ground near the mining town where her family lives. The hole is actually an underground cavern, and she lands in the middle of a giant metallic open palm, like that of a huge statue. It’s alien in origin and defies everything scientists know about metallurgy, and the government wants to know where “the rest” of the statue is.  17 years later, that girl is a scientist heading a project to find those pieces all over the world.

Also it’s not a statue…it’s a machine.

Honestly that’s all I can bring myself to say about it, for fear of spoiling any of the really cool developments of the story. As far as the audiobook goes, the cast really brought it to life. Neuvel proves that he’s a daft hand at withholding and revealing, giving you questions and then handing you answers before you get frustrated…then walking right into a new development or new angle to keep you burning through the story. I for one am glad that I didn’t read it until the sequel was already out, because now I don’t have to wait for the next leg of the story.

Content Warning: Some of the characters share romantic entanglements in their interviews (which are actually relevant to the story) and while none of these scenes “go pink,” sex is a topic in multiple chapters. As for language, there is a small handful of S-bombs and B-bombs throughout the book. Not done to excess, but they’re there.

Buy my mom’s house in Henderson, NV.

For years, you’ve wanted to be a legit Old Hendersonian.
You’ve wanted to live within walking distance of the Water Street District, where you can eat a different culture’s food every day of the week.
Where old men in white smocks cut your hair with hand-sharpened scissors and tell you stories about The War.
A place where whatever grocery store across from Wal-Mart is trying to survive this week. (Is it a Sav-On? It’s Albertson’s. No, it’s Haagens? No, it’s an Albertson’s again…)
Well, you no longer have to dream about being closer to Target AND Walgreens AND Friendly’s Donuts AND Johnny Mac’s AND Cinedome 12, with its $4 Tuesday Tickets and the same ticket-tearing lady who’s been there since I was 11.
Yes, all of this is within your reach, because a home just went up for sale in…THE TRIANGLE! Specifically, my mom’s house!
the triangle.jpg
You can be the envy of your friends as you step out into your front yard, look west, and gaze upon the industrial masterpiece that is Timet Industries! They make titanium there, how cool is that?!
And it’s right behind the James I. Gibson Library, which used to be by City Hall, but has since moved closer. About 90% closer. It’s on  your doorstep, giving you The Look, and jangling its keys. Once you own this classy, revamped, War-era house, you’ll have that last 10% right at your fingertips.
Directly east of your new Legit Hendo House is the leggitest Discount Tire Store in the whole valley, designation “NVL01”. I worked there in high school when it was a much less classy outfit than it is now.
A decade ago, many Triangle houses were derelict or outright abandoned. In just the last year or two, many of Mom’s neighbors have redone their houses, and the neighborhood on the whole is looking a lot better, which is why these houses have gone up in value. That, and the location.
In fact, here’s a short list of what’s within a mile or so of your new place:
-St. Rose Hospital
-Albertson’s (for now…)
-Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Carl’s Jr. (same shopping center)
-Target, PetSmart, Staples, Marshall’s, and Big Lots (also same shopping center)
-The Henderson Convention Center
-The Farmer’s Market (every Thursday)
-Jack in the Box, Sonic, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Pep Boys, and the US Post Office…all next door to each other.
-And that’s not even counting the Wal-Mart on the corner of Lake Mead and Boulder.
For crying out loud, you’re less than two miles from Cinedome 12 (the cheap seats!), Johnny Mac’s (wings! pizza! ribs!), Friendly’s Donuts (JUST ASK ANYONE IN TOWN), and the Sunset Pizzeria.
The only Old Henderson Landmark not inside that circle is the El Torito restaurant, which was teleported out of Mexico thirty years ago and is still serving the same recipes today. Deadpool himself would swear by these chimichangas, and we all know how Deadpool likes to swear.
But enough about the neighborhood perks! What about the house perks?
Well, my mom bought the place in 2009, after having to sell the house I grew up in off of Pacific and Horizon. Check out the B&A:
mom house
You’re getting new paint inside and out.
New windows, all up to city code.
Plenty of new plumbing and fixtures (including for the kitchen, hall bath, and laundry.)
Three of the rooms couldn’t even be used when she moved in. Now the house has 4 bedrooms and 2 renovated bathrooms, plus:
A walk-in pantry
A spacious living room and family room
Tile and laminate flooring
AC and a swamp cooler
A 12′ storage shed out back
And 2 driveways out front on either side of the property. (3, if you count the pull-through.)
Heck, you’ve even got pomegranate trees in the backyard, and fertile soil full of fertilizer from Mom’s two hyperactive egg-laying hens. Those planter boxes have more chicken crap in them than Green Valley High School’s entire athletic roster.
Mom’s been able to run a full-time business out of this house, with two 12-foot wide longarm quilting machines, the whole time she’s been there.
The downside of that is that her house has been full of business-related stuff, and she’s the only one living there, so most people who walk through have only seen a house full of unidentifiable quilting stuff that might or might not be used to conceal the activities of a serial killer–and I can’t think of anything more Vintage Henderson than that.
Not to worry, though–Mom’s bringing that stuff with her when she moves into my basement in Utah.
So if you’re in the market for a Hendo House, seize your chance to own a legend! Her agents Sherrie ((702) 525-4316) and Mary ((702) 281-0322) will get you a showing.
Or be a sweater vest sellout and buy a boxy little cookie-cutter shack in Green Valley that costs WAY more than it’s worth, plus an HOA. Don’t let me tell you what to do.

That Thing Where You Openly Declare War On Your Bad Health

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5 years ago today I was celebrating on Facebook that I’d lost 25 pounds and was trying to lose 15 more, to get back down to about 180. I’d been training for my first mud run, so losing all that extra bulk was a necessity.

I kept it off for a few years, then got into trucking, then started working all kinds of insane and unaccommodating hours, and that took its toll on my body. The increase was gradual and steady. I’ve lost token amounts of weight here and there, but always gained it back quickly because of how I live and work.

This is neither healthy nor affordable, and I’ve decided to put the kabosh on it. I’m scared to go back and add up how much my “just a few bucks” trips to gas stations and truck stops has costed me. Something tells me it wouldn’t be hard to crack a hundred bucks a month, especially if I add in the recently-frequent fast food runs at work.

I can’t keep doing this, but I have been because it’s convenient and tastes good. And then I sit around wondering why I can’t get back into mudding shape. I peaked at 230 pounds this year, the heaviest I’ve ever been. Not good. If I had Andrew Luck’s BMI, that would be one thing, but I don’t.

So here goes:

I officially declare that I am no longer drinking soda, be it diet or otherwise. If I really want something bubbly, a case of La Croix is cheap and harmless. If I want something tasty, a case of electrolyte drinks is affordable.

I am no longer buying fast food, or buying lunch even if I’m out with the guys at work. I don’t care if I get weird sideways looks from the employees at Arby’s as my co-workers order their $11 combos and I’m eating leftovers out of a Tupperware. Fight me, bro.

I’m not getting candy, even occasionally. Beef jerky is overpriced at corner stores. Protein bars? Buy ’em in bulk and ration ’em out. I’m getting hosed on expensive good food, but shooting myself in the foot by eating cheap bad food. Then I come home at night, stay up late working, and grab a bowl of cereal while I draw or edit.

Gee Graham, I can’t imagine why you’re heavy, or why you often get short of breath after a fit of exertion at your oh-so-physical job.

So hold me to this, guys. This starts now and runs *at least* through four weeks, which gets me past my birthday. I won’t be so naive as to think I’ll be able to avoid every ounce of this stuff but I have to make the drastic change now, because weeks and months and maybe even years of saying “Okay, this time I’ll do it, and quietly…” hasn’t worked.

Cat’s out of the bag. I’m back in hardware mode. Let’s GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.


Colts Comic #1: JJ tries to call Andrew.

These will get more sophisticated once I move out of my friends’ basement and have my full desk set up.

For those who don’t follow the NFL, JJ Watt is a defensive player for the Houston Trailer Trash. His job is to try to sack Andrew “God Mode” Luck of the Indianapolis Colts.

The joke here is that Watt claims to spend the offseason in a Spartan cabin in the woods, with no tech, just weights. In truth, it’s a fancy forest house.

In contrast, Andrew Luck can’t FaceTime because he still uses a flip phone. Enjoy.


Monster Hunter International (Monster Hunters International Book 1) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Vendetta (Monster Hunters International Book 2) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Alpha (Monster Hunters International Book 3) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Legion (Monster Hunters International Book 4) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Nemesis (Monster Hunters International Book 5) by [Correia, Larry]

This is one of the more adult series that I keep up with, so the tone and content of these is pretty different from what I normally plug. Just be advised if any of you take my recommendations seriously, there’s a fair amount of language and violence in Larry Correia’s flagship urban fantasy series.

The premise is this: Owen Pitt is an accountant and gun enthusiast (much like Correia) with a flexible mind and a penchant for pounding the crap out of anyone who shoots first. When he’s working after hours one night, he gets attacked by his boss, who is actually a werewolf. Using a combination of firepower and brute strength, Owen kills his boss, but wakes up in a hospital under the watchful care of the MCB (Monster Control Bureau).

What ensues is a Men-in-Black-esque briefing about the world of monsters, that they’re real, they’re a big problem, and the government pays private companies good money to hunt them down. Owen is invited to come to work for Monster Hunter International, and things go both up and down from there.

Why do I keep reading these books? Well, they’re good rip-roaring fun. They’re what SyFy Channel B-movies could be if the characters weren’t idiots, the weapons were accurate, and the writer(s) really tried to do a good job. Character is king, and Correia makes these characters lovable and admirable.

On top of that, he avoids big-city traps that other authors write. These stories don’t happen in Chicago, LA, or New York. He tries new settings and makes it all that much more interesting for it.

If you’re looking at a 6-book series and asking yourself how each one could possibly stay interesting, here’s a breakdown:

International: Pitt is recruited to MHI, learns he has a supernatural connection to a dead Jewish monster hunter, and needs to fight a killer demon who’s coming to destroy the world. (Takes place generally in the South in USA.)

Vendetta: An ancient evil comes to Earth to hunt Owen after the events of International. There’s an armored zombie bear in this one.  (Set in Mexico, the US South, and New Zealand.)

Alpha. This isn’t from Owen’s POV, it’s about MHI’s leader, Earl Harbinger, who is a government-sanctioned werewolf. He goes to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to face an old foe, only to learn that their pasts are more deeply intertwined than they thought. (One of the best of the series. Takes place in Michigan.)

Legion. Owen’s POV again. The team is at a monster-hunting convention when a nightmare demon breaks out and attacks the fictional dragon-themed hotel. (Takes place in LAS VEGAS!!!)

Nemesis. Not Owen’s POV. One of the MHI agents, Agent Franks, is actually a monster who’s been alive for hundreds of years. This is his backstory, interspliced with scenes in the present. I can’t remember where this one is set.

Siege. It’s not out yet but I’m dying to read it. Correia has written a bunch of other stuff since Nemesis came out in 2014, so this story has been sort of in limbo for a while.

Keep in mind, these are super watered-down summaries of these stories. There is a huge long roster of characters who are rich and well-developed, and their actions keep criss-crossing throughout the saga to keep things interesting. Correia knows how to write action and intrigue at a pace that does not invite you to take breaks.

So if gritty, high-octane urban fantasy is your jam, dig in. These are just a dang fun ride.

10 Ways Writing and Trucking are the Same Job

10– Technically anyone can do it, but if you don’t get some training you’ll make a huge mess.

9– If you hammer down but don’t know where you’re going, you’ll cover a lot of ground for no reason.
8– You can do it without planning the route. Just be prepared to take the long way and burn a ton of fuel…
7– …unless you’ve gone there before, in which case you probably know the way.
6– It will be a few days before you shower again.
5– If you keep a bottle handy, you can save time on bathroom breaks.
4– Don’t slow down unless you have to.
3– At this point you haven’t quit because you actually like the work, you weirdo.
2– “Woohoo, I made six dollars today!”
1– If you caffeinate yourself to the moon you can get TONS more done.