Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Lookers: Ember," #11 Review

The 11th and final issue of "Lookers: Ember," ends as it began--having just the right mixture of self-awareness and self-indulgence to be a fun read. Published by the more cheesecake-focused imprint of Avatar Press, Boundless Comics, this series mashed-up two entites who had previously appeared in their own one-shots (Ember and the Lookers) into one surreal and interesting story. The Lookers are private investigators who specialize in helping women at risk of having private photos or videos leaked by vengeful ex-boyfriends/husbands, and Ember is a super-powered celebrity who can manipulate fire and utilizes that to achieve movie-stardom.

The focus of the series itself is how Ember has a sex-tape stolen of her and and a U.S. congressman, which results in a myriad of interested parties trying to acquire it from drug-lords hoping to blackmail the politician to so-called, "Men's Rights Activists," hoping to smear the name of Ember. Also, lots of graphically illustrated sex occurs between men and women, women and women, and so forth because this series had enough plot to apparently not have it be in the, "Adult," section of Previews magazine (besides some really risque covers) for people ordering it, but boy-howdy this book can be pretty raunchy. The weird thing about the mini-series, "Lookers: Ember," as well as the one-shots that preceded it that made me love it enough to consider it one of my favorite mini-series/maxi-series of 2017, is that it can at times be kind of genius despite at least half the audience probably just buying it for the T&A (which is admittedly very well-illustrated along with all the other story-elements thanks to the artwork by Gabriel Andrade and back-up story by Christian Zanier).
Every issue has been loaded with observations about internet culture/the digitization of of sex, sexism (the MRA group and their twisted logic are soundly mocked), and the idea is heavily explored how it is depressing to even think we would need people to be hired to help women suffering from threats of revenge-porn. It is becoming a more and more common news story these days as jilted exes purposely put private pictures and videos of women who trusted a partner enough to send private such imagery online for all to see in hopes of basically slut-shaming a woman for the, "Crime," of being a sexual being. Besides exploring a lot of concepts the book did interesting things with its storytelling too, jumping around in time enough that it wasn't annoying but instead set-up interesting plot twists. Plus, fun and weird characters were introduced like one finally taken down in this concluding issue, "Cobra," a sex-obsessed drug-lord who becomes absurdly violent after having his--ahem--member shot off by the Lookers--he then finds his only pleasure in life that makes him feel manly now is hurting others (a lot of psychological concepts to unpack there for sure). Much appreciation is due to writer Patrick Shand for such a well-written series.

"Lookers: Ember," has its characters often having sex, but it never treats the idea as something dirty, instead trying to shame the haters. It is a book that says being monogamous, poly, or any other configuration of a relationship one wants is fine, and if you say otherwise or are a jerk the Lookers will beat -up and/or Ember will quite literally burn you. There is just enough self-aware winking at the reader weaved into the series that you don't feel like you're reading some silly dirty comic so much as a cleverly sarcastic mixture of action, social commentary, and saucy romance. This final issue does all this and sets up the possibility of future storylines that has my interest piqued as well. This last issue of, "Lookers: Ember," is just as great as the first and the lead-in one-shots. I ecstatically rate it...
5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cheryl's Cookies are Great!

During October my wife surprised me with some fun mail-order treats. They were from a place called, Cheryl's Cookies. I was touched by her sweet gesture and surprised by just how delicious the cookies were. You see, normally I don't like cookies with buttermilk frosting but the buttermilk frosting on these cookies (that looked like little Autumn pumpkins) were amazing. The non-frosted cookies such as snickerdoodle, oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, and so forth tasted spectacular too. The key is apparently they use good ingredients so as to not taste plastic-y or otherwise nasty. I've seen some reviews online of people who hate the cookies which surprises me as I'm as picky as they come in regards to baked goods and I loved these. I've told my wife to feel free to surprise me with more of Cheryl's cookies whenever she liked.

Note: I was not contacted by Cheryl's cookies or any other entity to make a post about them. This is not some kind of advertising/sponsored post, I legitimately just felt like discussing my affinity for Cheryl's cookies

Friday, November 16, 2018

Flashback Friday: I Adored "Saints Row," 2 and 3 and Continue to Fondly Remember Them

As longtime readers of the blog may recall, years ago I made a long and rambling post about my affinity for the first, "Saints Row," game. Despite it being a blatant rip-off of the, "Grand Theft Auto," series it really rose above the sum of its parts to be a game I fondly remember. As the series went on it eventually somewhat escaped the shadow of the GTA games, becoming its own weird super-hero-alien-fighting-mash-up around the fourth entry. For my money, however, the second and third games really hit that sweet spot of good gameplay, great storytelling, and otherwise being a grand time.

"Saints Row 2," took everything fun in the first game--customization, zany characters, wild plot, base-building--and gave us more. It wrapped up certain plot-elements from the first but also mostly stood alone, and was ingenious in who the final boss you ended-up facing was--gentrification. You see, the Ultror corporation had bought-up much of the city at the end of the first game while your character was in a coma. Throughout a lot of the second game you fight other gangs that all seem to have little ties to Ultor before you seem to have beaten the game...but nope, now Ultor makes it move. With all the gangs except the Saints wiped-out they can sic their corporate hit-squad on the Boss (you), and try to eliminate the last group of folk keeping them from essentially taking over the city and maximizing profits. It is such a clever indictment of capitalism in a game most people think of for its dick jokes that it really surprises you. The other fascinating thing about Ultor is that it isn't made-up of wild and crazy gang-members. It is just a big, cold, corporation, that wants to wipe you out for reasons that aren't personal, you are simply in the way of profits. The cutscenes for the Ultor missions makes this clear, with the initial prologue-style one being especially chilling in its depiction of how Ultor will get rid of the, "Wrong people," for the city of Stillwater:

"Saints Row 3," which is also known as, "Saints Row the Third," is a bit more over-the-top than the second game (as the trend goes with this series), but not to any kind of extra success or harm, it just goes even harder on the metaphorical pedal. You're dropped into a new city known as Steelport and it is everything in the other games amped-up even further (just as 2 built upon 1, this builds upon 2). It has the Saints as worldwide celebrities who yet again take-on more gangs, corporations, and even a paramilitary organization. It's good fun as well and even though I have a fondness for, "Saints Row 4," I think the series achieved perfection on the 3rd game. The final fourth game in the series (spin-offs notwithstanding) became more of a super-hero simulator whilst the 3rd was still a bit more grounded (at least as grounded as a game with gigantic naked clone-monsters and helicopter-based bank-robberies can be.

The first three, "Saints Row," games all had certain story-elements, missions, and general aspects I loved. The first game set a stellar foundation and had a killer ending, the second game had some ingenious story-telling as well as in-depth customization not yet previously seen, and the third was where it felt like the gameplay and mission-design had been mastered by the developer. Speaking of the developer, Voltion, they actually were bought-out by another company known as Deep Silver after their most recent game, "Agents of Mayhem," had underwhelming sales. Hopefully there is something really good cooking still, be it a, "Saints Row 5," or something else intriguing. In the meantime, I'll fondly recall all the previous entries, even the bit-much final one and its Johnny Gat-focused spin-off that sent a secondary character literally to Hell. As I said, things got weird towards the end.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again," is a Fresh and Clever Take on an Old Classic

I love whenever someone takes old classic stories/fables/etc. and gives them a weird twist. For example, I am a huge fan of the incredible anthology of tales, "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales," as well as any yarns that provide a view of a story from another character's viewpoint (like the villain) or which, "Continue," an old tale, as it were. "Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again," by Dave Horowitz is a bit of a sequel to the tragic original, "Humpty Dumpty,"rhyme, following the poor guy/egg as he falls, is horrifically injured, but then in a new twist put back together by a doctor. My wife and I found it when on a trip at a local bookstore and are glad we did as it is a great book for kids--such as our son Clarkson--and adults alike!

After his injury Humpty doesn't try to climb any more walls, mountains, or anything vertical of any sort. Instead, he just sits around in his underwear, watching television, feeling glum. Even when the Dish (famous for running away with the Spoon) stops by to try and motivate Humpty, it is to no avail. Eventually Humpty does get motivated to climb again, so as to save the King's men who originally were of no use in putting him back together when they get stuck on a mountain. After that, Humpty finds himself reinvigorated and ready to climb all kinds of structures again--from now on always using the proper safety gear.
Horotwitz uses a great mixture of rhyme, humor (who doesn't find an egg in underwear funny?), and has an encouraging message as well, telling us it is okay to fail/fall down, and the key is to keep trying as opposed to getting discouraged when something goes wrong. Horotwitz's illustrations are delightful and full of fun little touches that make every page a pleasure to flip-through. "Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again," is a stellar read and one I enthusiastically rate 5 out of 5 stars. I'd encourage anyone interested in this book to see if their local library carries it, purchasing it online or at a local store, and visiting Dave Horowitz's website to check out his other works too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"The Green Lantern," #1 by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp is A Solid Start

I am a big fan of Grant Morrison, having loved a lot of his works (and admittedly hated a handful too). His latest work is writing, "The Green Lantern," ongoing comic with artist Liam Sharp that I believe takes place in the current DC Universe/continuity but seems in other ways somewhat removed and almost had me wondering if it was set in the past if not for some more-recent references (I'm not alone in this either, as this cool annotation of the comic talks about). This issue follows some Green Lanterns investigating a crime that it turns out released some kind of horrific and dangerous force that results in Hal Jordan being called-upon by the Guardians (who run the Green Lantern Corps) to investigate what could be going on. It all may sound straightforward, but Morrison works in all kinds of weirdness from a virus that serves as a member of the Corps to a, "Fleshmen," alien with a hive mind plus all kinds of weird little callbacks to past comics that hardcore readers as well as those only a little familiar with the assorted Lanterns (such as myself) can both enjoy regardless of how extensive or limited their knowledge is.

The first issue of, "The Green Lantern," with Morrison at scripting-helm is well-written and fun if not immediately awe-inspiring, but Liam Sharp's artwork picks-up any slack in what Morrison presents us. Sharp's illustrations of alien worlds and creatures are lush, detailed in their surreal abstract nature, and otherwise had me staring at pages long after I'd read any plot-points or dialogue just to absorb the mixture of his beautiful and hideous drawings (some aliens are incredibly ugly in an impressive way). He assembles the panels on the pages in a way that the story flows perfectly and his art-style contributes to the retro-futuristic vibe I got from the comic.
Liam Sharp provides some amazing artwork.
This first issue of "The Green Lantern," is a mixture of solid writing from Grant Morrison and superb artwork from Liam Sharp. It contains plenty of action, sets up a mystery, and otherwise is a solid start to what will hopefully be a hum-dinger of a run. I eagerly look forward to more.
4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Television Tuesday: I Hate A Particular Kind of Contestant on, "The Price is Right,"

There are three kinds of people in this World I hate with a passion:

1. Those who hurt others for no reason.
2. People who give their word and don't keep it.
3. Contestants on, "The Price is Right," who bid $1 over the otherwise highest guess.

I would imagine we all at one point in time have said something hurtful for no reason or hit someone out of anger, and if we have nothing else we at least have our word but maybe have even gone back on that once. I  sincerely hope nobody reading my blog has ever gone $1 above the otherwise highest bid on, "The Price is Right," however, because those people have a special place in Hell.
For anyone unaware of what I'm talking about, contestants on, "The Price is Right," get called-down from the audience and are shown an item which they have to guess the price of--without going over. It can be basically anything and whoever guesses the closest amount without being too high wins and gets to compete for other awesome prizes. All too often however there will a person who asks what the highest bid was and goes a single dollar higher, thereby dooming the other person who bid what they felt was reasonable to losing if it turns out the item is more expensive than everyone's guess. Sometimes it backfires, with a lower guess winning, but far too often someone tells the host Drew Carey, "I"ll bid $751 over their $750," and it turns out the product is 900-ish, resulting in a huge jerk getting to play for even better items. 

Whenever this happens it is cruel, terrible, and if I were on, "The Price is Right," I would make my displeasure loudly known with a number of expletives if someone pulled this move on me. I implore anyone who ever happens to be on, "The Price is Right," to please never bid a single dollar over the highest guessed amount, it paints you as a terrible human being. At least guess $50 or so higher, that way you still are now the highest guess, but also don't look like a despicable monster. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stan Lee Has Died

Stan Lee, one of the last living greats in the field of comic-books, has died. We recently lost Ditko, Kirby left a awhile ago, Eisner is no longer of this world as well, and it seems the people who had a hand in the creation of some of the biggest comics/properties ever leave us more often than ever due to age and illness. I of course wrote many a time about my complicated feelings regarding Stan Lee, and had expressed concern about his recent treatment by those who were supposed to be looking out for his best interests, but the bottom line was that Lee had his fingerprints so deeply ingrained in the foundation of super-hero comics it would be impossible to imagine what we have today (in terms of movies, merchandise, and modern-comics) without his contributions.

I've already seen posts online deifying him as some kind of God who could do no wrong as well as hot-takes decrying him as a terrible and shitty person. He of course was not an artist, he was a writer, and people debate whether he contributed a ton of the effort or barely any work behind some of the greatest creations he and his collaborators made, with the truth undeniably being somewhere in the middle. The big thing with Lee though was how he was a natural showman. The guy practically bleed charisma, enthusiasm, and was generally just a super-fun person you wanted to listen to. His ability to promote the art-form of comics in the past decades before they were as accepted by the mainstream as a form of entertainment, "For more than just for kids," is a contribution I personally feel could not be overstated, regardless of people's personal feelings about the man or how much work he did in comics. Stan Lee has died and I am sad. I will miss him.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Toxic Fandoms Make Being a Fan Hard

The, "Toxic," versions of Rick and Morty.
They ironically reflect some of the worst members of the fan-base.
I love the television program, "Rick and Morty." I sometimes am nervous to express this in public however as the show has become notorious for a chunk of its fan-base being people who behave abhorrently, and I fear someone thinking I'm one of those fans who believe Rick is someone to be modeled after as opposed to hated and pitied, or who lined-up and screamed at McDonald's restaurants when they ran out of Schezwan sauce (which actually did taste pretty good). I also have enjoyed the, "Star Wars," films, finding the original trilogy to be great fun, not hating, "Episode 3," and being relatively pleased with, "Episode VII." I still haven't seen the spin-off movies or the latest main-flick but I will get around to doing so at some point. There are other people who obsess over, "Star Wars," however, and it has developed a fan-base which can at times be so toxic it has harassed writers, actors, and others to a disgusting degree. I love being a fan of things, but I"ll be damned if toxic fandoms don't make being a fan hard.

The word, "Fan," is basically a shortened and colloquial version of the word, "Fanatic." Basically, fanaticism is bad if looking at a strict definition of the word, as it means you are dangerously obsessed with something, worshiping it to a degree. As with many words and phrases its modern usage just means you really like something, but maybe there is more and more accuracy in the old definition. After all, fanatics of something would love their interpretation so much anything that challenged it they would hate and attack...much like some of the toxic fandoms today despising anything done with/to their beloved intellectual property that they disagree with. Pretty much any somewhat-popular show, movie, book-series, comic, video-game, and so forth will have an element of its fan-base that can be toxic, but the problem arises when there is a good deal of toxicity, and it seems to overpower and overwhelm the much less hateful majority of folk. Still, when a toxic fandom seems to saturate the discussion it really makes being a fan hard. I don't have a solution, if I did I sure as Hell would offer it to any fandoms overloaded with toxicity. I just wanted to vent and advise others to call out toxic people in a fan-community when they see such behavior. Make sure it is known that their horrendous behavior won't be tolerated because if they claim to love something so much all they want to do is hate-on anyone else who likes it too (and maybe likes different aspects, even) then they aren't fans, they're just jerks.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Nostalgic Nerd Part of Me is Sad--Prima Games is Shutting Down

Sit down you young whippersnappers and I'll tell you a story about the era of gaming in the late 90's and early 00's. You see, the internet wasn't quite what it is today and folk would buy these big things called, "Strategy Guides," to have help playing video-games. Yeah, yeah, I know guides are still made these days, but they get a lot less people buying them and sometimes they are almost more like video-game art-books with a bit of gameplay tips thrown in. Those are designed to appeal to collectors with their art-prints and hardcovers, I"m talking about the old paper-guides that broke-down all the stuff the game manual didn't--yes, yes, our games used to have paper manuals too! Well, one company that made a lot of those guides back in the past and has struggled to keep-up with stuff like wikipedia, gamefaqs, blogs, etc. is known as Prima Games...and well, Prima is going out of business.

Another big company, Bradygames, was actually absorbed by Prima back in 2015, so Prima was arguably one of the last big strategy guide companies left. I am sad for the employees at Prima this impacts and the nostalgic nerd part of me is quite distressed. The kids these days really don't know how good they have it when they get stuck in a game, able to look-up written directions or watch somebody else master a difficult part via  Youtube/Twitch/etc. I guess strategy guides are becoming another one of those things made irrelevant by the almighty power of technology.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Film Friday: The Spy Who Dumped Me

Have you ever watched a movie that was good but felt like it went a little longer than it needed to? That is, "The Spy Who Dumped Me," without a doubt. With a running-time of an hour and 58 minutes this feels like a movie that would have been perfect at a strict 90 minutes and no more. Focusing on Mila Kunis' character who learns her boyfriend she just broke up with is actually a spy, within the first 15 minutes he appears at her house and dies whilst telling her what she can do to help protect the World through some globe-trotting-shenanigans. Kate McKinnon plays Kunis' best friend/partner in helping save the world and much of the funniest parts of the movie come from the hilarious chemistry the two have together as close chums. The flick moves along breezily, but right when you think it has reached its climax and is keeps going, for another half-hour. It is still entertaining as the stakes keep rising as Kunis and McKinnon find themselves in crazier and crazier situations (posing as Canadian ambassadors and Cirque De Solei performers), but I was kind of wonder, "When does this end?" My wife said she felt this way too while watching it, so I'm not alone.

"The Spy Who Dumped Me," is a solidly entertaining film, albeit one that goes a little long. Thanks to Kunis and McKinnon's hilarious banter it kept my attention throughout and overall it was worth the Redbox rental. Also, it presents to us in all its unedited glory the biggest, saggiest ball-sack I've ever seen in a mainstream Hollywood movie, so that counts for something too, I suppose.
3.5 out of 5 stars.