Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April's End List of Links

May Approaches!
April is about over, here are some links and news stories for you to consume.

Read These and Get Edumacated!
I really did enjoy the, "Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2000," game from Neversoft. It seems I'm not alone in that regard.

Dear God, Donald Trump is most likely going to be the Republican front-runner and I pray he doesn't get elected President. Should such a thing happen we are probably doomed.

These efforts to make abortion illegal through increasingly awful excuses for laws are just an embarrassment. I guess some people won't be satisfied till abortion are only for the rich who can keep it quiet or people who go into dirty back-alleys and risk their health.

Prince's death continues to make me feel very sad. His family has my sympathy during this trying time made even more complicated by the fact he did not leave a will and there will be plenty of vultures descending to try and get piece of his estate.

DC must really not be enjoying all the negative press about their continued promoting of a known repeat offender of sexual harassment. Correction, at least two sexual harassers/borderline predators.

Speaking of DC (and in a less embarrassing story), I always enjoyed reading, "The Killing Joke," and am astonished they actually are going to make an R-rated animated feature based on it, featuring the voice of Batman, Kevin Conroy, and the best Joker-voice (Heath Ledger wins for live-action), Mark Hamill. I'm excited!
Cracker Jack, considered by many to be the original junk food (a dubious honor, but an honor nonetheless) has announced they are saying good-bye to offering any physical prizes in their tasty bags or boxes. They will now be throwing in a little piece of paper with QR codes or other ways to get digital goodies. I mean, it'll save them money in the long so, so well played, Cracker Jack--it just makes me feel a little sad as I recall getting prizes back in the day. So goes the march of time and all that.

Hearthstone's latest expansion, "Whispers of the Old Gods," is out, bringing with it some changes to the game via a number of cards being, "Retired." I've been fiddling with it and am impressed so far.

As someone who has enjoyed visiting the Disney theme parks and learning bits of trivia (Club 33, anyone?) this article about the Haunted Mansion and its twisty history made for a good read.

The Links that Were
Those were some links, I hope you enjoyed them. I'll try and do some more in the future as its always fun to share.

This is Not a Drill People, We Are Gonna Get an, "Animal Crossing," on Mobile!

I just read that this Fall we can expect to get, "Animal Crossing," for mobile devices. My immediate reaction upon reading this was to loudly exclaim, "YESSSSSS!" and pump my fists in the air joyously. I've played multiple entries in the Animal Crossing series, from the consoles to the Nintendo DS, and it is basically tied with, "Harvest Moon," for my favorite life simulator. Of course, one big advantage it has over that stellar farming title is that the, "Animal Crossing," series in fact takes place in real-time, using its clock to simulate the actual day and season. It's good stuff, and now we will in due time be getting it for our phones to enjoy countless hours with!

Some articles are a bit snarky, commenting how Nintendo should have mobile apps with its most popular characters seeing as how the company is having more and more money-troubles, but those articles can take a long walk off a short pier, because, "Animal Crossing," on iPhone has me absurdly excited. The only worry I have is if they try to implement some kind of obtrusive micro-payment system that makes that old loan-shark Tom Nook like a good guy in comparison. Time will tell.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I'm Serious, Frank Cho, It Honestly Isn't Funny

Yet again, here we are.
I talked about Frank Cho back in September of 2015, discussing his propensity for drawing cheesecake-style art and acting like he was making a political statement at the same time. As always, I'm fully for well-drawn cheesecake art or political statements, but when you're just being a sarcastic jerk it ain't that appealing. Well, because that famous pose (butt in the air while the lady crouches) brought Cho so much fame after he made fun of the Spider-Woman controversy with Milo Manara's initial art, he now has yet another drawing he's making bank on. The thing is, this time it is an actual, official cover for a, "Street Fighter," comic.

It is like the comic's publisher thought, "We want to do a post of a woman with her butt in the air, how about we get Frank Cho seeing as Manara might be busy?" So now we have an homage of an homage. It's Frank Cho paying a cynical tribute to his own cynical tributes and laughing all the way to the bank. The one saving grace is that the image itself doesn't have something annoying to hint at Cho pretending to be political as he has done with characters popping-up in the background and yelling, "Outrage!" At least this is just a straightforward cheesecake image to folk who don't know the background story about the pose. For those of us who do know the story though, Frank Cho is just kind of being a stinker.
"You'll never stop me!"
The saddest thing about this is some of the creative team behind the comic itself didn't know there would be this Frank Cho cover causing a hubbub, so now they just get to feel embarrassed without having actually done anything. Honestly though, Frank, if you just go back to making some of those funny, "Liberty Meadows," comic-strips all will be forgiven.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Our Long National Nightmare is Over--Marvel Is Killing Their, "Inhumans," Movie

I don't care about the Inhumans, but I've been told by Marvel I love the Inhumans. Between their concentrated effort of killing-off the popularity of the, "X-Men," through culling books and desperately trying to wedge Inhuman-themed books into their place, the effort to ret-con mutants as Inhumans, the introduction of the concept on the, "Agents of SHIELD," television show, and so forth, Marvel has spent these last few years really trying to make, "The Inhumans," happen. The thing is...well, let's have this clip from, "Mean Girls," sum it up:

Yup, Marvel is Gretchen and they are desperately trying to make, "Fetch/Inhumans," popular (thanks to House to Astonish for stating this metaphor in one of their podcasts), but people don't want it, damn-it, so quit trying. I've enjoyed the Inhumans in small doses in other books, but the last time I found myself substantially intrigued by a book featuring a bunch of the characters was that mini-series written by Paul Jenkins and with art by Jae Lee from, let's see here...from the late 1990's (and it was reissued in 2013 to an overwhelming shrug, it seems.

Well, Marvel has given-up and removed, "Inhumans," from their movie slate, possibly/probably forever. Then again, depending on who/whom you ask much of the folk at Marvel quit wanting to do a movie about the Inhumans some time ago, but it took the shifting of power within the company for it to become possible to say, "Screw it," and drop the Inhumans from Marvel's film slate.
People have pointed out Marvel may just be moving dates around, considering what to do with the property, etc. etc. Let's be honest though, this movie is most likely dead and in a few years Marvel will have the Inhumans back to being the relatively obscure characters they've generally been, with any newer Inhumans of note having something happen where they are quietly revealed to be actually mutants--if someone wants to bet me a crisp dollar bill that by 2020 Ms. Marvel won't have somehow been turned into a mutant do please send me an email, cuz' I'm positive they're gonna try and change it.

The, "Inhumans," movie is dead and nobody cares because the only comic of note currently coming out featuring an Inhuman is only interesting because Warren Ellis is doing his usual weirdly-awesome work on it (seriously, "Karnak," is pretty good). It's a shame because I've always found the concept of the Inhumans a bit interesting, and enjoyed reading about the adventures of Black Bolt (the king of the Inhumans whose voice is so incredibly loud a whisper can destroy cities). On the plus side, we get Iron Man in the latest re-launch of, "Spider-Man," so that's good.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Review of the "Trashed" Graphic Novel

Derf Backderf got a ton of critical attention for his autobiographical comic that then grew into a graphic novel, "My Friend Dahmer," which discussed how he actually knew Jeffery Dahmer before the serial killing began. Derf has done other work before, and, "Trashed," is his revisiting and re-doing a smaller comic he did about his days as a garbage man but now as a full-length graphic novel. Released in 2015, "Trashed," is a mixture of storytelling and all-to-disturbing-real facts about how much garbage we as a populace create. As the comic often points out, we put out our garbage and feel like it magically disappears by the time we return home. Reality is of course far more complicated however.

Throughout reading the copy of, "Trashed," I picked up at my local library I found myself moderately interested in the lives of the characters in the comic, but utterly fascinated by the facts about garbage in the world. Derf's illustrative abilities combined with his writing about garbage collection results in some startling pages of refuse-filled landscapes that look almost disgustingly beautiful. These otherwordly patches of land stacked to the brim with ton upon ton of junk are terrifying.

The everyday lives of the main characters sadly aren't as gripping, if still intriguing enough to follow in-between the alarmingly scary facts about trash and recycling. Dirk. J.B., Bone, and everyone else get up to some interesting shenanigans, encountering all kinds of nasty foodstuffs, dead animals, and the occasional large appliance. Still, I almost wonder if instead of quite liking the book I could have loved it if Derf had gone more in the direction of just sharing the horrifying history and current events of garbage as opposed to also working in some vaguely-autobiographical-and-somewhat-fictional tales about his garbage collectors.

"Trashed," is a book that is at times fascinating and at other points a bit less impressive but still a good read. Fans of Derf's work will surely enjoy this, as well as anyone who has ever wondered just what happens to garbage after we put it out by the curb. Even if the book at times drags, it still is overall a very good read.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Suicide Squad" Movie Observation

In regards to the, "Suicide Squad," movie, it is really saying something about how dark your, "Batman VS Superman," movie must have been where there are even a hint of rumors (true or false) that your flick about a team of dangerous and/or psychotic killers is doing reshoots to be the, "Funny," film.

The idea that a movie about a group of serial killers and criminals will be the lighthearted option in your film slate really says something about, "Batman VS Superman," and I'm one of the few people who actually liked the movie!

Monday, April 18, 2016

The "Madballs" Comic--Review of the New Series

Back in the 1980's there was a popular toy/ball/fascinating and hideous fad known as, "Madballs."A funny collectible, they actually had a multi-media impact, appearing in cartoons, comic books, and otherwise filling the market with their trademark ugly mugs and pun-based humor. I recently found a copy of one of the comics, and it was moderately funny if definitely a product of its time with some really racially insensitive jokes about Asian-Americans in a story that involves a Chinese restaurant being tormented by a gangster to change their fortune cookies for...some reason. The lead story with the evil Dr. Frankenbeans making a female Madball to try and trick the other ones into killing themselves for her affection was cute though.

The old series, has not aged that well.
Anyways, thanks to Roar Comics (an imprint of the previously discussed Lion Forge) the series of, "Madballs," is coming back with a new comic available this April 20th! I had the chance to read a preview copy which featured the start of a few stories. As this preview discusses, there is the tale of an Intergalactic Bizarro Bowl where the Madballs compete in various challenges, as well as some other cool stories.
The new series, pretty funny.
I'm happy to say that if you are familiar with the Madballs and liked them due to the puns and gross-out humor, you will be quite happy with this re-launch. I mean, just look at that cover up above! That is disgusting and also illustrated extremely well (and a bit funny). The contents of the comic follow that routine, with a variety of solid drawing, gross-yet-funny jokes, and a great deal of creativity (seemingly nice-yet-possibly-evil Madballs found via time-travel, anyone?)
Even if someone doesn't know the Madballs--I only had some familiarity with them before seeking out the old comics and reading the new one--if you like good art and are either a kid or have a youthful sense of humor (yeah, my humor can be a bit immature and gross) this should be a title you quite enjoy. I would recommend picking-up a copy of, "Madballs," first issue this Wednesday, April 20th for sure!
4 out of 5 stars.

Note: A digital copy of this comic was provided for the purposes of review; I'm on a press-list so I get promotional emails and such, it seems.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I Tried the "DOOM" Beta and Shall Share my Thoughts

Regardless of the final game's quality, that is some ugly box-art.
Thankfully it has an alternate cover.
I tried the beta for multiplayer mode in the newest, "DOOM," release that will be coming out, um, lemme look here....ah, May 13th, there we go. Oh, and it is indeed just called, "DOOM," in all capital letters and with no, "4," even though it is the fourth entry in the series. I found the beta pretty fun, coming across as a decent arena shooter with nothing that made me go, "Wow, this is absolutely amazing." Then again, I also never went, "Jeez, this sucks," so there is something to be said for a title being dependably entertaining.

In the beta there are two current ways to play; there's your standard team deathmatch and a sort-of, "Capture this space/king of the hill/hold this zone," type of mode. Also, people can turn into demons and utterly demolish any opposing players during fights. There a is a bit more to it such as, "Hacks," and customizing your character and weapons, but the main, "Meat," is in the gun-play, and the game is solid at that.
Considering how this is, "DOOM," you can expect a lot of bloody explosions from body-parts being splattered by weapons and the like. Interestingly enough, all the weapons are supposedly ultra-powerful (a rocket-launcher comes standard with one load-out) but by making everything theoretically powerful, you basically have made supposedly extreme weapons such as the rocket launcher seems like a glorified pistol--a thought others have had too, such as in this thorough breakdown of the beta that states, "...weapons can be summed up fairly neatly with reference to the rocket launcher. It’s a puny thing, dropped into the bog standard load-out where you might expect to find a pistol. There are no pistols because everything is turned up to eleven but, when everything is at full volume, nothing seems very loud, or very dangerous," Yup.

The questionable power of the weapons aside, it still was pretty good fun running around, shooting the opposing team, double-jumping, and otherwise causing havoc. There wasn't anything that felt particularly special about it, but there's always a thrill when you sneak up behind the player who last took you down and you blow them up. Taking into account how, "DOOM," will of course have a single-player mode and considering how the beta is just a taste of multiplayer, it would be presumptuous to make a conclusion based on the game based on this weekend of a free mini-trial.
But wait! Seeing as how I'm presumptuous as a muthalover, I'll tell you that based on my time playing the beta that, "DOOM," strikes me as a game I may rent from a store/Redbox or check-out at my local library. After borrowing it from an establishment, this is a game I bet I'll have some forgettable fun with before I resume waiting patiently for, "No Man's Sky." Again, I'm using my powers of assumption and for all I know the single-player mode will be incredible with a story that sticks with me...but yeah, I'm betting this is some entertainment I'll ingest and promptly forget for the most part. Should still be a moderately fun rental though.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Film Friday: A Quick "Star Wars" Ranking

I think after much consideration I can give my own personal ratings of best-to-worst, "Star Wars," movies. I am aware my list has some controversial choices and it is by no means meant to be considered objective, I just really like one of the flicks that some folk dislike:

1. The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)
2. Return of the Jedi (Episode VI)
3. The Force Awakens (Episode VIII)
4. A New Hope/Star Wars (Episode IV)--when it first came out it was simply, "Star Wars."
5. Revenge of the Sith (Episode III)
6. The Phantom Menace (Episode I)
7. Attack of the Clones (Episode II)

Please be aware that while some absolutely despise, "Return of the Jedi," I actually quite adore it. The first film of, "Star Wars," also is good, of course, and should be considered a great deal better than, "Revenge of the Sith," even if just above it on the list. Oh, and speaking of "Revenge of the Sith," it actually has some quality parts that made me have some inklings of the original, "Star Wars," magic and was a good film for Lucas to go out on. Oh, and "The Force Awakens," was an all-around great time.

That concludes my quick ranking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I Enjoyed Fiddling with the, "Succulents," Game

There are, "Game jams," sometimes where people try and make interesting pieces of entertainment in a short span of time. The Nordic Game Jam for 2016 occurred and one entry is a game I saw noted in a new article on Rock Paper Shotgun and which I thought sounded interesting enough to try out. The piece is called, "Succulents," and the concept is simple for this game created in less than 48 hours--you have a little underground garden and you need to water the earth to make plants (which you then keep watered too). It is easy, at least once you realize that to get water you need to click a porthole for the pool to keep refilling, and literally entails nothing more than dropping a bucket in water, holding it over stuff whilst it drips, and repeating.

It is easy, but also fun. There is a zen garden-like quality to simply watering the Earth and then keeping what sprouts hydrated so it doesn't wither. It is by no means something to spend hours upon hours playing, but it is a fun little way to pass some time and relax. You can download it for completely free or chip-in some bucks from your Paypal account to help show the developers their experimental work is appreciated. I would say you should give it a try, which you can do by following this link.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Thinking About That Short Time Ales Kot Wrote a Mainstream DC Comic As Its Movie Approaches...

Hey, remember that time Ales Kot wrote a mainstream comic for DC? What's that? No, no, "Winter Soldier, "was a mainstream comic for Marvel. I'm talking about his extremely brief stint on, "Suicide Squad," where he took the floundering-about series and immediately turned it around. Well, he turned it around for the four issues he got to write--#20, #21, #22, and #23--after which he unceremoniously either quit or was kicked-off the book (it is unclear what exactly went down). Once he was done there was that, "Villains Month," business and then Matt Kindt came onto the book and did a solid job as he always does, but nothing at the level of his weirder and even better independent work (gotta love the, "Mind MGMT")!

It is a shame Ales Kot's time with the Squad was so short-lived, as it was simply stellar (as others besides myself agree) injecting some of his trademark surreal storytelling yet also keeping things a bit more formal than some of his own works which can really get strange. Kot found the humor in this team of monstrous people to such a stellar degree that when I first saw the intentionally-funny trailers for the upcoming, "Suicide Squad," movie I immediately thought of his time on this comic, even if a chunk of the team is different than what is in the flick. Should the movie even be as marginally good as this short-lived run was, it could be a rip-roaring time. Now I'll just think about what could have been if Kot had kept writing this book.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Some Comic Debuts of Interest Part 2--Rant Reviews!

Continuing The Fun
I've still got more new comics I read and wanted to discuss. Let's dive right in!

More Debuts
Rough Riders #1
A new title from young publisher Aftershock Comix, this book features a fictionalized version of Theodore Roosevelt before his Presidency basically operating as a sort of secret super-hero and beginning to gather a team for secret mission in Cuba that is much different than what the public was told. Written by Adam Glass with art by Patrick Olliffe this sounds like something humorous, but the comic actually plays all this perfectly straight, and much to its credit, the whole thing actually kind of works. The idea of soon-to-be President Roosevelt being a hero with teammate such as famous boxer Jack Johnson and the hinted-at-joining-next-issue Houdini is entertaining in its earnestness (as this really is a an idea you have to either make silly or do completely seriously), and Olliffe's art compliments the proceedings quite well too. I'm eager to see just who Teddy recruits for his team and what kind of mysterious threat they'll be combating in future issues.
4 out of 5 stars.

Power Lines #1
Writer and artist Jimmie Robinson is a name associated with a variety of works, but many know him for the slapstick comedy full of innuendo that is, "Bomb Queen."  This comic also involves people with special abilities, but is less about super-heroes than it is about exploring racial and class dynamics with a comedic bent. The twist of the story is only hinted at in this first issue but solicts made it clear that the comic centers on a young black man who gains super-powers...but only in a, "White," part of town. There is also the added twist of a really racist white woman who seems to also have access to powers suddenly, but only in the part of town full of people she spends pages ranting and raving against. This clearly is a set-up for all kinds of funny hijinks and the comic does a solid job of balancing between being thoughtful and humorous. Now the question just remains what our, "Heroes," will do when the realize the possibilities and limitations of their powers.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Hellina #1
Back in the day Avatar Press published interesting comics as they do now, but many of these comics had a decidedly more sexual slant with a heavy focus on, "Good girl," and, "Bad Girl," art. Basically, I'm trying to politely say they put out comics with lots of sex, nudity, and of course violence just to keep things varied. Avatar these days doesn't get raunchy quite as often, but sister publisher Boundless has found its niche in taking old Avatar concepts and rebooting them with a fresh coat of paint to compliment the copious T&A. We've already had the return of, "Jungle Fantasy," and, "Belladonna," and have got, "Lookers," and, "The Ravening," getting ready to put-out new stuff too. Hellina is another one of the titles that draws from the Avatar of old to give us something new (and some reprinted older-stuff for good measure), and does so pretty well. If you're simply hoping for pages of explosive action, sex, and a strong vibe of everything being humorously self-aware you'll be a fan of this comic. Now, if you're expecting a deep and introspective treatsie on concepts of Good and Evil or Heaven and Hell, you're gonna be let down. Still, between all the smart an literary comics sometimes its fun just to read something a bit silly, and this has plenty of silly between demon-vampire sex and suicide-bomber angels, to give just two examples. A fun read.
3 out of 5 stars.

Elasticator #1
This is from a newer publisher known as Scout Comics; I've seen, "Elasticator," described a bit as being like an R-rated tale of Plastic Man. I believe the 2nd issue is now already out, but I just read the first one and would say I liked it due to some fun story beats, and delightfully good-looking artwork. Written by AC Medina and illustrated by Kevin Shah, we open in the late 2000's where everything has clearly gone quite wrong for our, "Hero," and he is giving the police his deposition about how his life went sideways. The aforementioned art-style is gorgeously bright and expressive with just the right mixture of gritty when the story calls for it. One interesting story-element is how our, "Hero," named Mikey, is actually a pretty unlikeable guy, and the story makes that clear, with some of the supporting cast coming off as much more pleasant, even if some are potentially bad guys. Making Mikey a bit of a jerk is clearly intentional however, and probably will play a role in illustrating why he failed once he gained his powers and became a super-hero...who is now a bloody mess and sitting at the police station. Between a story that has me intrigued and some great artwork this is a solid...
4 out of 5 stars.

Those were all the recent-ish debuts I wanted to talk about. I hope at last one of them looked interesting enough that I assisted you in discovering a new comic to read. I enjoy being helpful like that.

Some Comic Debuts of Interest Part 1--Rant Reviews!

Some Fresh Comics
I just recently had a post discussing how I don't just talk about the brand-new comics. That said, let's talk about some series that have debuted, because I am nothing if not inconsistent (try and figure out that triple negative)!

The New Stuff
Black Panther #1
This comic has been hyped so much by Marvel it is hard to separate the excitement and expectations people may have from the comic itself. As for the actual comic? It is a perfectly good first issue by Ta-Nehisi Coates, someone new to writing comics but not at all new to writing in general. Brian Stelfreeze is of course a tremendous artist so the book isn't slacking in the department of gorgeous visuals. Still, Coates is clearly setting a lot of ground-work in this issue for a story about people plotting to otherthrow the Black Panther's rule of his kingdom, and as the story proceeds I bet a lot of the story-seeds being planted will bloom wonderfully. As it is now though, this is just--as I said--a perfectly good first issue story-wise that is amazing art-wise. I'll be eagerly following this to see where it goes.
3 out of 5 stars.

Circuit Breaker #1
Speaking of comics that boast people with amazing drawing-talent, "Circuit Breaker," has the awesome Kyle Baker providing some incredible artwork. Sadly, the plot of the comic itself is an utter mess that isn't sure if it is going for funny, serious, thoughtful, or really any semblance of logic. Kevin McCarthy has an amazing collaborator in the form of Baker and its a shame the awesome robots that get drawn don't have a better story to compliment them. If you pick this up, don't bother reading the word balloons, just ogle the impressive illustrations.
1.5 out of 5 stars--Plot and Story
5 out of 5 stars--Artwork

Empress #1
Well, besides the fantastic art by Stuart Immomen this is a wholly unremarkable comic. Much like the just-reviewed, "Circuit-Breaker," this comic has writer Mark Millar giving us a relatively straightforward take on a Queen escaping from her drunk-with-power husband. The whole issue is her and the kids escaping, along with a brief look at the past when she first fell in love. It feels really decompressed, like if this were a two-hour movie we would have just seen maybe the first five minutes. Millar has a lot of hits and misses, and whether the comic shows more depth or just sucks as the issues proceed it'll probably bring him some more millions of dollar once it gets optioned for a movie regardless of its quality. This was a book that could be easily passed-over by a reader looking for something better though.
2 out of 5 stars.

The Fix #1
Damn, do Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber make a great team or what? "The Superior Foes of Spider-Man," was excellent and now we've got a new series from them featuring two guys always looking for a way to score some cash whilst balancing their criminal activities with a day job of (spoiler alert)  being police officers. The solicitations for the comic actually hid quite well the twist that these guys are supposedly upstanding officers who scam and cheat the system, but reading that twist just made me guffaw loudly while walking on the treadmill at the gym (yes, I read my comics while exercising, and my balance has so far been fine). From just its first issue I can already tell this book is a winner, and should you like some, "Funny," in your funnybooks you've got to pick this up too.
5 out of 5 stars.

More in a Little Bit
There are some rant-reviews on new titles, I'll be back shortly with a few more.

Maximum Widow Uncovered AKA Another Cool Kickstarter from Mike Wolfer Entertainment

Friend of the blog Mike Wolfer is a man who seriously must never sleep, considering he seems to always be creating his own comics he puts out through his company, Mike Wolfer Entertainment, and often can be found running successful Kickstarter campaigns for the mentioned material he always is working on. Plus, he creates works for other publishers too, so again, he must not need those REM-waves! He just started his latest campaign yesterday, titled, "Maximum Widow Uncovered," and I wanted to talk about it.

 I found his latest campaign especially worth note as it is a fun collection of his more raunchy covers and pin-up art that he discusses not having plans to make available in stores--unlike some of his successfully Kickstarter works. Also, for those who pledge at the $30.00 level he'll include some limited edition trading cards for a, "Witchman," character he has strongly hinted will be getting his own comic stories soon too.
I like giving shout-outs to Mike because as he always makes clear in his Kickstarter campaigns, without the backing of supporters who fund his works it would be incredibly hard--if not impossible--for his Mike Wolfer Entertainment to keep putting out his awesome books. While there are sales in comic shops, the funding through Kickstarter is what allows him to actually create his works and reward fans with special versions of the comics that can't be obtained in shops either! The fact that Kickstarter helps a creator gives us something we otherwise would lack is a prime example of someone using Kickstarter correctly, and all of us benefiting as a result.

So yes, check out, "Maximum Widow Uncovered," if you're a fan of Wolfer's work, his Widow character, pin-up art, or just like supporting cool creators.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I Tried the Three New M&M Flavors We Can Vote On And I Have One Easy Favorite

Voting Time!
M&Ms currently have a campaign going where three new flavors are for sale, and us consumers can go vote online or via text about which one we like enough to make a permanent flavor. I tried all three yesterday and while I wasn't surprised by the one that was my favorite, I was a bit shocked how easily it beat out the other two. Before I tell you which one I liked the most though, let's review the options:

Chili Nut:
 The best way to described M&Ms  with the chili is that they went and coated a nut with a surprising bit of heat. It can take a second for the hot-feeling to start, but once it kicks-in don't be surprised if you actually want a glass of water!

Honey Nut:
These M&Ms reminded me of the other nut-filled candies the most, but the taste was a bit sweeter than your standard M&Ms

Coffee Nut:
A coffee nut M&M has the same crunch as the other nuts, but also includes a surprisingly strong essence of coffee that mixes with the chocolate and produces a cool flavor almost reminiscent of a mocha.

This flavor has of course existed a looooong time, but people can actually vote for it too. I guess this is like the, "Protest," vote for people who didn't like any of the new flavors and want to make that extra-clear?

The Best Flavor
You may be able to tell from my summaries, but in case you couldn't, I loved the coffee nut M&M the most. It was just plain delicious, with the honey nut M&M being wholly unimpressive and the chili nut M&M being interesting enough that I would try it again (but still wouldn't vote for it). Yes the coffee nut M&M was just plain delicious, and you will love it if you're a fan of coffee

Note that if you dislike coffee, you may very well hate it. I gave my mother-in-law these M&Ms to try and she thought the chili and honey nut were perfectly average but had to go and spit-out the coffee nut M&M due to her having a burning hatred for all things coffee-related. That said, I loved this flavor, and have already voted for it. I encourage you to try the three options out too and tell the company which is your favorite...although I'd obviously prefer for you to vote with me on team coffee-nut. Still, it's your choice, just please don't pick honey.

I Got Blurbed, And it Was By "Grumpy Cat!"

As an esteemed journalist (hey, quit laughing) I have of course had my reviews at times tweeted about, linked, and posted on websites--either in agreement and to promote something, or because a person thought my opinion was awful. One thing that hasn't happened (at least not outside of Kickstarted books thanking me for coverage) is my getting, "Blurbed," for a book. That has now changed.

I was doing my usual thing where I'll occasionally Google, "The Newest Rant," to see if I'm being discussed anywhere--I don't do it for narcissistic reasons so much as to pray that I'm relevant and see who I've pissed off this month. Well, while doing my Googling I discovered a quote from my review of a Grumpy Cat comic listed in the digital preview of a publication. I realized it was the, "Google books," preview of the, "Grumpy Cat," hardcover that recently came out collecting the first mini-series published by Dynamite, and sure enough on the back-cover where review excerpts are displayed the words of yours truly appear. Observe:
I'm by no means a huge name in popular-culture musings even if I do get a decent readership. Still, it is funny to think that my opinion is valued enough that an excerpt of it is put on the back of a major publication. I'm always tickled when someone thinks my ramblings are coherent enough to promote their product (or when someone gets angry enough at me to post a long article about why I'm awful and wrong), as this blog really is at times a bunch of random sometimes-positive and sometimes-negative opinions mixed with a healthy dose of cynicism and eternal crankiness. I just guess seeing people value my opinion enough to quote me--or hate it enough to quote me in other cases--is nice.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Rant Reviews Where I Check-In on Some Series

It's Not Only About Brand-New Stuff
I of course love to review and discuss new series. That said, they are plenty of ongoing series and mini-series I've been reading which deserve some attention too. Shall we review some?

As We Resume Reading...
Regular Show #34
I always enjoy a good 15-minute burst of, "Regular Show," with its quirky sense of humor complimenting my desire for televised absurdity very well. The tie-in comic is now up to its 34th issue and with this one we begin a new three-part arc where Mordecai and Rigby argue about which movie action-heroes have the best weapons. It is as usual a seemingly simple concept that flies off into all sorts of zaniness and hints at some dangerous trouble brewing for the next issue. There also is a funny back-up where the guys face-off against some bikers who also happen to be little babies. Again, it is very silly and if you don't have the kind of humor the show appeals to you may scratch your head in confusion about why people enjoy this stuff. However, should you be like me, and like a dollop of weird with your jokes, you'll have some fun with this.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #97
This issue concludes a short story-arc which follows Tarot, her fiance Jon, and sister Raven, as they are transported into a surreal horror-tinged world apparently set within a demonic video-game console. The result is our heroes falling prey to various horror motifs (Tarot becomes a Frankenstein's monster, Raven is turned into a vampire, and Jon finds himself moprhed into a werewolf), and fighting against the evil entities of the world. I enjoyed this issue, and writer-artist Jim Balent sure can draw a superb werewolf. My only big complaint would be that the ending feels rushed and a bit anti-climatic, with another character who has activated the evil game console simply having himself disconnected from it, allowing Tarot, Raven, and Jon, to be transported back to the real world. I wouldn't have minded this story being allowed to breathe a bit with a third issue that follows our heroes working to find a way out of the twisted horror-world, but perhaps I'm just saying that because werewolf-Jon looked really cool. Whatever the case, as "Tarot," approaches issue #100--a huge milestone for any comic, especially an independent one--it continues to be as enjoyable as ever.
4 out of 5 stars.

Jacked #5
Written by Eric Kripke--who apparently helped create the show, "Supernatural," which my sister-in-law adores, "Jacked," has been a darkly humorous take on what happens when a normal guy named Josh who desperately wants to be powerful finds a drug named Jacked that inexplicably makes him, well, "Jacked." It has been a fun series so far but this issue really brings things to a head when Josh confronts some gangsters while high on some expired Jacked. This allows the artists, John Higgins and Marc Olivent to draw some impressively bizarre hallucinations ranging from talking snack-cakes to a brief appearance of some DC heroes (being a Vertigo comic has its perks if you want a Superman or Batman cameo it seems). The series started out a bit more sarcastic and fun before getting a bit more depressing, but a scene here where Josh realizes his family is the most important thing to him of all regardless of Jacked is sweet if a little bit on-the-nose. There is one issue left in this mini-series and I hope things work out okay for Josh, which is a sign of good writing when you care enough about a fictional character to desire they turn-out alright.
4 out of 5 stars.

Saga #35
Do I honestly need to review this? I mean, it's, "Saga." Many people love it, a few folk inexplicably hate it, but I find it to be one of the most consistently entertaining and engaging comics coming out. Plus, as this issue draws a bunch of plot threads together it is exciting to guess how much havoc is going to be breaking out soon. A good way to summarize this is to simply say: "'Saga,' it's the comic everyone should be reading." Plus, as is pointed out in the letters page, this is the issue before the last one which will be followed usual in-between-arcs-break has a literal cliffhanger, that's always fun!
5 out of 5 stars.

Spook #4
I read this and realized it was actually the last issue of the mini-series, making it less a case of checking-in on a comic than it is observing the conclusion. I'm still going to review it though because I found the series pretty interesting overall if a bit slow-moving at times. The basic idea is the CIA has in fact been able to turn a dead agent into a ghost--although it took until the end of issue #2 for that to occur--and thankfully after the slower-start things picked-up with the third issue and this now concluding one. The artwork is solid, a bit scratchy and impressionistic, and the plot has an interesting hook with some good dialogue even if the exact motivations of certain characters at times seems a little unclear (so why did the bad guy keep a potential threat alive? He doesn't ever really give a particularly good reason). Still, it was a solid read that hints at future series where more CIA ghost-agents are around, so if a sequel occurs I'll check it out, methinks.
3 out of 5 stars.

The Wicked and the Divine #18
Man, it really seems like forever since that last issue, and it in fact has been a couple of months as there was a break before this new episode in the increasingly twisty and complex, "WIC+DIV," as the kids call it--I think, at least; who knows what kids are into these days? Things definitely start off with a bang, as it is revealed someone we all thought dead--Laura, the main character for much of the earlier issues--is in fact doing quite alright, and ready to raise a bit of a ruckus. A ruckus does indeed get raised, as this is one of the most action-packed issues of the series thus far--writer Kieron Gillen admits in the back-matter that this latest story-arc is one where if something could blow up, it will. I'm quite excited to see where things go now.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Vision #6
This issue a whole bunch of nasty truths come out, some disturbing home surgery is performed and shit otherwise continues to get real. Awesome stuff. Seriously though, who would have predicted some months ago a comic about a robot (pardon me, synthezoid) that almost zero people care about would turn into what is possibly the best comic--not just best Marvel comic, but best comic, period--currently on the stands? From the intensely ominous first issue to the growing violence, fear, and general paranoia in later ones, a book about a lame Avenger within six issues has turned into a must-read series that has been confirmed as ending with issue #12, but if writer Tom King says that lets him tell the entire story he wanted to tell before going-off and becoming DC-exclusive then dear God let's treasure this half-way point. I say we should treasure it because the sixth issue is another stupendous piece within this magnum opus that is already being compared with other comic masterworks.
5 out of 5 stars.

It's Good to Keep in Touch
It is always good to check-in on titles, I'm glad they all seem to be doing at least moderately well or continuing to prove themselves as excellent.

Flashback Friday: A New "Fear Effect" Game--What Are the Odds?

A new game in a series that hasn't been seen for a decade-and-half? That's interesting. Let me explain though. You see, a few days ago I was thinking about older video-games I had played, and one that I mulled-over was, "Fear Effect," and its less-impressive (but not terrible) sequel/prequel, "Fear Effect 2". A weird game full of cell-shaded graphics, violence, sex, and general mayhem, "Fear Effect," was basically a sci-fi sexploitation flick come to life. It took place in the future, but toward the end worked in mysticism and general madness as the characters descended into Hell...or something. Note that it wasn't necessarily that good of a game, but it sure was an interesting one.

As for "Fear Effect 2," it covers how some of the characters from the first game came to meet one another and featured a highly publicized and promoted same-sex romance between two of the female protagonists that involved a make-out scene in an elevator (it was 2001, the idea of a lesbian kiss still could throw the media into a tizzy). Also, it took the somewhat tongue-in-cheek nature of the first game and just went full-out on the objectification with ads like this (yes, these are real):
As I said, the games themselves generally weren't this heavy on the sexualization, but they still definitely had that playing a part. Oh, and there was a third game planned for the Playstation 2 but it ended up cancelled. The series was clearly dead and gone, until now when suddenly it has sprung back to life.

It was funny to think that the very next day after my thinking about the series that it was announced how there will be a Kickstarter by an indie developer (with permission from the intellectual property owner, Square) who wants to create a new, "Fear Effect," game that is less of a third-person shooter like the previous titles and more of an arena-style fight where over various turns you control a team as they combat enemies. This apparently isn't a reboot, but will in fact follow the plot of previous games (including the one that never came out). Here is the teaser trailer for it:

 I am always leery of Kickstarter campaigns for games considering how many have been funded and then failed to release (although there are of course success stories too), and the concept of how this indie developer gets to make the game with the Fear Effect license because they have to pay Square a royalty of sorts from their Kickstarter strikes me as odd, but if we can get a new and potentially good, "Fear Effect," game out of all this my interest is indeed piqued. We will see how the Kickstarter does once that crowdfunding campaign is launched, and hopefully if all goes well by 2017 we will have a new, "Fear Effect," game.

Whether this will be more guilty-pleasure styled or serious shall be seen, but I did read the developers have already promised no more steamy elevator scenes, and I imagine in 2016 having an ad that declares how your female protagonists put, "The ass in assassin," wouldn't really fly.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Some Thoughts on Batman and the Question of his Sexuality

I read a recent and interesting article on Slate that discussed the question of a gay subtext in Batman and how it generally didn't become a thing for people until Dick Grayson AKA the first Robin, entered the picture. This article got me thinking about how on this issue I feel I might be unique. Why? It honestly wasn't until much later in life that the idea of Batman being gay even crossed my mind, occurring in 2012 due to the comments of a particular writer. Yes, that even includes the immense and intentional, "Gayness," of the over-the-top, "Batman and Robin."

It may sound silly, as we had the, "Campy," Batman of the 1960's people know well, the repeated subtext of the Joker having a love for Batman that borders on the homoerotic, etc. etc.. It just never really occurred to me though. Even any jokes about Batman and Robin doing anything sexual struck me as patently absurd because Robin was a child, Batman had his childhood robbed from him by a criminal, and pedophiles are criminals who hurt children--hence Batman would never do anything to harm a child (plus statistics show pedophiles are not necessarily gay even if they pray on someone of the same gender, there are a whole bunch of other factors at work).
Yeah, I don't know how I missed the subtext either.
Perhaps the reason I never thought of Batman being gay is the same reason I don't think about the sexuality of a rock; it is a rock, it has no sexuality. In the same manner  I never thought of Batman--or his civilian identity Bruce Wayne--having a sexuality. Batman's whole thing is a dedication to fighting crime, there is no place for, "Gay," or, "Straight," within that. Sure, Batman might seduce Catwoman, but is he really attracted to her or simply using romance in an effort to further his impossible-to-accomplish goal of ending crime?

Hell, you could even make the argument that regardless of if Batman were gay or straight, he never really had a chance to develop a sexuality. We are of course born with our attractions to certain sexes and genders, but often don't begin to feel these attractions until we enter adolescence. Bruce Wayne arguably never became a teenager. He is in a stunted childhood, forever that little boy crying in crime alley over his murdered parents and dealing with his rage the way a child would find appropriate--dressing up in a scary costume and beating-up the kind of people he thinks killed his parents.
The start of the infamous interview.
With my lack of consideration of Batman's sexuality established it really smacked me upside the head (metaphorically speaking, I wasn't actually assaulted) when in 2012 Grant Morrison said in an interview with, "Playboy," how the whole concept of Batman struck him as quite gay. After reading this interview it was suddenly like I was in a dark room where the light had been switched on--and this room was all the subtext for Batman's sexuality. I suddenly saw that even if the jokes about him and Robin were patently absurd, the subtext of Batman's sexuality in other cases was still readily apparent. From the heavily fan-fiction influenced theories about he and Aquaman, to the more academic arguments about Batman's rage potentially being a repressed sexuality--be that a gay identity or possibly a straight identity heavily into kink, etc. Truly, the floodgates opened in my mind about Batman and the question of just what kind of sexuality this fictional character had.

For my money though, I would say I think Batman is actually straight, but rarely has time to take his sexuality into account. My main argument for this is that there is a woman in his life he clearly cares about deeply and even had a child with (although he didn't know about the kid, Damian, till recently), Talia Al Ghul. The daughter of one of his enemies, Talia is someone who within most forms of media that involve her is clearly someone Batman is immensely attracted to, and possibly even has feelings of love for. Batman and Catwoman of course have a thing too, but if she is his high-school girlfriend, Talia is the girl he met in college and wanted to spend his life with--and maybe if he survives his time as Batman and ever retires, will end-up enjoying the rest of his years by the side of.
There would be nothing wrong with a gay Batman, I just don't think the hero as we know him is in fact gay. There are all kinds of subtext people can read into things, but at the end of the day I think Bruce Wayne truly would rather sleep with and fall in love with women--yet due to his unending war on crime will never have much of a chance to be an especially sexual being outside of an occasional rarer instance with Talia, Catwoman, etc.

Monday, April 4, 2016

So, I Didn't Go to Wizard World Saint Louis This Year

As folk who live in the area may have noticed, Wizard World Saint Louis occurred this weekend, April 1st-3rd 2016. I didn't go. It isn't anything personal against Wizard World, but I had either previously met most of the guests there I would want to see, or many of the guests who were new didn't get me that excited to attend. Also, I didn't have much funds to spend on a bunch of merchandise or purchase any of the neat looking comics from Artists' Alley, where I tend to spend most of my time at conventions. Between all that, the cost of parking (even if I can get in to the show free as a journalist, parking is absurdly expensive), and wanting to go to Kansas City to celebrate a friend's birthday as opposed to staying in Saint Louis, I skipped out on Wizard World Saint Louis this year.

Did any readers of my blog happen to go? If you did, how was it? Should I be sad I did not go this year due to it being awesome, or was it unremarkable and it is fine that I skipped?

Friday, April 1, 2016

A Review of Secret Wars (The Most Recent One)

There of course was a, "Secret Wars," comic some decades ago. I haven't read that one (I did long ago check-out that Bendis-written event that referenced the name though, it was so-so), but I did just recently read and mostly enjoy the, "Secret Wars," comic that ran during 2015....and into 2016, embarrassingly. It was a good comic, with some things I liked  even if there was some problems. Time to break it all down!

Let's Start With the Biggest Problem AKA Confusion Reigns
All the, "Worlds," to know.
Good luck.
Without some background knowledge readers of this comic will be horribly confused  at the start, and even more-so when the comic shifts its focus early on to a place called, "Battleworld." It is essentially mandatory that you've at least read the, "Avengers," and, "New Avengers," issues Jonathan Hickman had going before this event, as they tie in with this so directly people who didn't read those or a background-primer will be utterly lost. Otherwise you'll be asking why Namor (of the "main" 616 Universe) and some other villains are in the Ultimate Universe, what all this, "Beyonder," talk is about, why one of the Reed Richards is evil, and so forth. Now, I said you need to have at least read those Avengers-related comics, but quite frankly it also would help to have read some or all of Hickman's, "Fantastic Four," run, a number of Ultimate-Universe comics--for example, Hickman's books set in the Ultimate Universe, "Ultimate End," and especially the comics that involve Miles Morales)--that, "Spider-Men," event where the 616-Universe Peter Parker met Miles, and you know what, this reading list helps you get a good idea of what you need to read.

However, should you really want to understand what is going on in Battleworld, the tie-ins that occurred with, "Secret Wars," and which took place in versions of various realities from past Marvel-comics, you would need to read everything from, "House of M," to, "Planet Hulk," to, "Marvel Zombies," to...screw it, here's another list that details the pocket-worlds and helps explain somewhat where they draw from.
It kind of makes sense zombies would hate robots.
I mean, not having a delicious brain kind of ruins things.
You may be asking why all this reading is necessary, and there is an answer that is cynical and one that is more optimistic. The cynical answer is that Marvel wants you to spend all your money to buy every one of the comics that relate to, "Secret Wars," in the slightest. The optimistic answer is that writer Jonathan Hickman has always been a fan of making huge epic stories full of complicated elements best expressed in those flow-charts he likes to make, and therefore of course he would incorporate all of his Marvel stories from the start, other stories stretching back decades, and whatever else he feels like tossing-in to make his gigantic story. I've written all these thoughts so far but not yet actually told you the general story, have I? Let's correct that.

A Clever Story
So much started with (and even before) those two words, "Everything Dies."
It is admittedly quite a clever story.  Basically in the first issue the destruction of the universe that Hickman has been teasing for years actually occurs. "Everything dies," just as he said way-back-when in his earlier comics. Yet then we open in a new reality, ruled over by the living-God Doctor Doom who is assisted by his Sheriff/2nd-in-command, Stephen Strange. Suddenly the Universe is this patchwork of zones separated by borders that few denizens of one world are allowed to cross into the other. This world has a police force of Thors, kingdoms that are full of mutants in one place and robots in the other; realms that are familiar to the earlier-mentioned Marvel events yet still a bit different.

Oh, and absolutely no one seems to recall what came before until we learn that Doom and Strange do remember, they think they are quite possibly the last survivors of the past, and that when Doom was able to destroy the Beyonders despite their amazing power it was he who didn't shy away from taking their power and becoming a God (unlike Stephen Strange who utterly freaked-out at the responsibility), and single-handedly remade the world. Basically, it took the Universe ending for Doom to get his wish--to be the ruler over everything he always felt he was best qualified to be.
Some heroes and villains survived the world ending in their, "Life rafts," however, and are understandably aghast at this new Universe. In one of my favorite moments from this event Stephen explains why he has actually been pretty much cool with everything, stating how, "He [Doom] is very good at playing God." These hold-overs from the previous world lead to a whole bunch of trouble for Doom and the rest of the event basically follows everyone trying to best figure out how to take him down. It is at this point it feels really apparent the mini-series are useful reading, as at times certain characters seems to shift their allegiances with only minor explanation, and I imagine related mini-series, "Fill in the blanks," more as it were--for example: Doom's police-force of Thor's discuss how a Thor from the previous world has convinced them to fight against Doom, but we don't actually see this Thor ever telling them anything, it is just implied another comic will help us understand it all better.

A Visual Feast

I've gone all this time without talking about Esad Ribic and the stellar artwork he provides, and I apologize for that. His immense talent allows him to draw epic fights or everyone standing around talking with the same intensity and gravitas that it always maintains a satisfying visual narrative for the reader. His Doctor Doom (once Doom achieves God-status) is drawn with his metal outfit and a stunning stark-white robe. This Doom is one who won't suffer challengers much like the Doom of the previous Universe, but this one has the power to back-up any problems he has to face. Much like Doom all the other heroes are portrayed in an impressive fashion, be it a newly Phoenix-powered Cyclops, A gigantic version of The Thing stomping across the country-side, or Black Panther wielding the Infinity Gauntlet in hopes of causing Doom's power to waver.

Ribic's style has always been one I liked, carrying with it a feeling of intensity and specificity that compliments this story well, as lord knows Hickman needs someone with an attention to detail for all the various worlds and characters who play a role in this event. This series of course suffered some awful delays to the point that the big re-launch of the Marvel Universe had to occur before this series even ended. The end result of Ribic's finished artwork running throughout the whole event however is awesome, even if the shame of the delay hangs over Marvel's head.

Solid Entertainment
Never let it be said Marvel goes light on the tie-ins for their events.
While Marvel may have gone kind of crazy with all the tie-ins that required an encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe, and a main event that required a not quite as big but still significant amount of understanding of recent marvel comics, I would say that, "Secret Wars," is definitely some solid entertainment. Between a story that is quite clever and visuals that seriously please, "Secret Wars," is by no means perfection, but it is a great piece of entertainment without a doubt. I would for sure recommend you read it, just maybe prepare yourself for a whole lot of background reading beforehand so you aren't utterly lost upon cracking open the book.
4 out of 5 stars.