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 done...it 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.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Season Finale of, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Did the Last Thing We'd Ever Expect--It Was Beautiful and Sincere

"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," has been running for 13 seasons now, with the finale for season 13 airing last night. The gang of Charlie, Dennis, Dee, Mac, and Frank (played by Danny DeVito who joined in the 2nd season) has always surprised viewers here-and-there with little funny twists or turns, but the whole point has always been that these are terrible, horrible people who are doomed by their own hubris to be miserable. Anytime something good has happened for any one of them it has been undone by their own actions, cruelly revealed to be a dream, hallucination, overdose on booze, or otherwise ended poorly . The characters may change a bit--Dennis becomes a dad, Mac came out as gay last season--but they never truly grow, they just stay stagnant and awful, which is where much of the comedy comes from. We viewers basically expect the worst from the characters of, "Sunny," and the worst to happen to them, so what could the ultimate twist be? Why, a genuinely deep, artistic, and human scene to end the season, with no, "Rug being pulled out," from us at the last minute, just pure raw emotion and beauty. Who the Hell saw that coming?

The final episode of this 13th season of, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," focuses heavily on Mac and Frank. It is time for Pride and they need Mac--their, "Token gay," to ride on the float for the bar in a parade to hopefully attract customers who are, "High-spending gays." Mac is struggling though. He is out now, but isn't sure where he fits in the world as a gay man, or just a person in general. He still hasn't come-out to his Father whom he has always had a complicated and difficult relationship with. Frank says how he never got Mac--when he was in the closet or out--Mac's imprisoned Dad even says he never got his son (without Mac even telling him he is gay). Mac hints at an idea to show how he is gay, a complicated dance with a woman who represents God or an angel, he isn't sure, but that idea is seemingly written-off by Frank as Mac clearly having some complex issues with his Catholic faith and being gay.
The episode carries on with Frank making crass comments about gay people because he's an old bigot (which he readily admits) and Mac seeming just down in the dumps. There are plenty of dumb jokes at the expense of the gang (the whole episode Frank is suffering a massive nosebleed from bumping into a door which he tries to stop in various disgusting ways) and it seems like nothing that crazy is going to happen, but then we reach the episode's climax. Thanks to Frank's money (a long-running gag in the show is that he enables the gang's bad behavior as formerly highly successful businessman), they are able to get the prisoners at the prison where Mac's Dad is incarcerated within an event-space for what is stated to be a Blake Shelton concert. In truth, it is actually a way for Mac to do something incredible though. He tells his Father, "Dad, I'm gay," with a nervous, quivering voice, then suddenly the screen goes dark. The sound of rain and thunder is heard (it is mentioned there was a rain machine for the parade float to explain this element) and then upon the stage it is Mac with a woman, doing a complex and beautiful dance in the rain, full of emotion, expression, beauty, and I was sitting there wondering if something was going to go wrong for some reason. I thought there would be a joke or mishap, but there wasn't. Mac's Dad gets up and leaves, but Mac continues the dance, and when he's done the prisoners cheer and Frank says with an bewildered and smiling visage--still covered in his dried-up nose-blood, "Oh my God. I get it. I get it."

This show, which for 13 seasons rarely gave the slightest hints at decency or happiness only to immediately destroy those glimmers of joy suddenly brings us viewers something astonishingly gorgeous and delicate, amazingly heartfelt, and it actually made me tear-up some. Is it some kind of sign that this far into, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," it could turn a new corner with a well-adjusted Mac dealing with a still awful gang? Will this somehow be undone so as to not, "Break," the show or can, "Sunny," have a moment of genuine humanity that isn't then kicked in the metaphorical balls but allowed to just exist, admired for its vulnerability as opposed to mocked? I was utterly dumbstruck that a show so rooted in exploring the grimy and brutal would swerve into some kind of magical realism, with other reviewers appearing equally surprised.
I've seen a mixture of responses to this episode online, with some folk cheering it as genius, touching, and amazing, whilst others have felt it was a jarring way to end the season completely counter to what the show has usually been like before. I clearly am of the viewpoint that it was great, doing something I never, ever, would have predicted and doing it in a way that mesmerized me. I guess it makes sense now why Rob McElhenney got so fit for this season, he needed to be in the best shape possible to do the amazing dance that Mac and the unnamed woman (played by Kylie Shea) perform. "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," is a show I've consistently loved during its stronger seasons as well as its weaker ones, but I never would've predicted it could have surprised me with something so raw and so lacking in the jaded cynicism the show normally trades in. If the show doesn't finally win a damn Emmy after this I don't know what it will take.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I Tried Some Weird Hot Chocolate Recently

This past weekend when shopping with Samii and Clarkson (it was the same day the unfortunate problems occurred with Best Buy) I purchased and tried some hot chocolate that was really weird. Created by a brand known as the, "Redneck Cafe," which is a part of the store we bought it at (World Market) the drink was bacon hot chocolate. I'll get one thing out the way--it wasn't good--but it was interesting. When I drank it I heated up some water and poured in the mix which looked perfectly normal. There was a slight artificial bacon-smell which only intensified as I mixed-in the powder. I eventually took a sip and it tasted like a decent hot chocolate...followed by the nastiest fake-bacon aftertaste one could imagine.

It didn't make me feel sick, it just struck me as having more of a chemical-taste reminiscent of bacon than actually feeling like hot chocolate with bacon in fact mixed into it somehow. Still, it was a fun little thing to try as I am someone who loves hot chocolate as well as of course coffee (but I don't really like them together AKA as a mocha, go figure). I maybe didn't like bacon hot chocoalte, but I did like the combination of cola and orange juice in a drink I bought, so live and learn.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I Hope Everyone Voted Today

I hope everyone voted today if they were eligible (or already did an absentee ballot). Even if you're voting wrong (e.g. for anyone Trump supports) I want you to exercise your right to vote because countless people fought and died for our right to do so in this nation. Not all areas had massive things to vote for, but some did, and even if you had little local ordinances or amendments to vote on the important thing is to vote. Some polls are still open, a chunk are closed, and before too long we will see what the Senate and House look like for the foreseeable future. Hopefully it is a future that looks a lot better than what has been happening in the past couple of years.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Never Buy Video-Games From Best Buy

Here's a story for ya that turns into a rant. I wanted to play, "Red Dead Redemption 2," on my PlayStation 4 so I used some money I had saved-up through buying and selling things (comics, Funko Pops) to purchase, "Red Dead Redemption 4," on Saturday at a nearby Best Buy while running errands with my wife and son. Once we got home I excitedly put the first disc of the two (the, "Data," disc) into my Ps4. The console made some odd sounds as it had been doing a bit lately, with the copying lurching a bit but it eventually said to use the next disc. I did so and then it quit working at all, saying it would be 99+ hours to install. I looked online and tried tips to fix this from disconnecting from the internet to unplugging the Ps4 for a couple minutes. Nothing helped. I deleted the progress and started over with the first disc again, only for it to go even slower and then crash. On the third attempt basically nothing happened. I looked into it and as my PS4 is older it seems quite likely the disc drive is mostly shot, barely able to play DVDs and such but not games. I realized I'll need to probably get a digital copy of, "Red Dead Redemption 2," and thought it would be easy to return the game. Dear God, was I wrong.

I arrived at Best Buy with my game and receipt. I explained the issue I was having and how my PS4 was unable to even play the discs. I was given a B.S. made-up reason about, "Copyright laws," that they can't take the game back once I opened it and could only exchange it. No matter what I said I was told no. Now, when I've bought games at other stores both in-person and online I've been able to return them in certain cases, and this was a unique case. I was told it was impossible though and I could get another game...which they would then open to (I assume to prevent someone from then just returning that one, which is what I would have admittedly done). I understand store policies but also know from my time in retail things can have an override for almost any reason in the system when one has special cases, plus I didn't appreciate being lied to about why they would refuse to take the game back and issue a refund. I realize there are concerns about piracy too, but in this era would someone really buy a game to pirate or just download some files online? It was stupid, and illustrated to me how one should never buy games from Best Buy, or any stores with such idiotic return policies. For anyone wondering, I sold my copy to a friend at a loss of a few bucks and bought a digital copy that was cheaper than retail thanks to no sales tax.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Latest Toyman Show Was Like Sunshine on This Rainy Day!

It has been cold and rainy in Saint Louis for days now. The temperature hovers in the high-30's to low 40's and it rains, rains, and rains some more. Thankfully, today the latest Toyman Show occurred and it felt like a ray of sunlight on this dreary day. I think other people agreed as well as the show was absolutely packed. One reason it may have been so busy was there was a super-cool guest this time, Mr. Martin Kelbba known for appearing in a wide-range of flicks including the beloved, "Pirates of the Caribbean," movies.
I was able to speak with Mr. Klebba and he was very nice and eager to chat, listening to me ramble on about the first movie I ever saw him in ("Corky Romano,") and my hazy memories of when I would listen to him on the Howard Stern show years ago as a kid (against my parent's wishes who didn't think a young kid should hear the language it contained). I greatly enjoyed talking with Mr. Klebba and would encourage you to check out his Facebook page, give him a holler on Twitter, or to check-out a non-profit he is on the board of directors for and which does great work, The Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy. It was awesome that he was at the Toyman Show and it serves as just another great example of the cool folk attendees can meet.
The latest Toyman show was jam-packed with vendors as always, selling everything from old die-cast cars, to Funko Pops, Lego, action figures, and comic-books. I enjoy showing-off what I acquire at the show in my posts to illustrate the variety of things on sale, but this time I actually only bought one thing, a super-cool, "Moon Knight," comic. I bought less as I am currently trying to make sure I have enough funds to buy presents for folk as the holiday's approach. By the time the next shows occurs December 9th I should have all that sorted and be ready to buy more though. Between continuously having stellar guests, tons of vendors, and being a great cost to attend if you asked me to rate my enjoyment at a Toyman show on a scale of 1-to-10 I would give it an 11!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

"Heroes In Crisis," #2 Doesn't Know What it Wants to Be

When it was announced there would be a mini-series comic written by Tom King which focused on how superheroes dealt with trauma that sounded interesting. I believe it was first called, "Sanctuary," and then later renamed as, "Heroes in Crisis." The idea of taking a serious look at the kind of psychology required for someone to want to dress-up in a garish outfit and be a vigilante is of course nothing new (hello there, "Watchmen,"), but it sounded like a welcome idea that if done well could be a good read--after all, Batman really has a lot of issues to work-through. The problem with, "Heroes in Crisis," that has become ever the more apparent with its second issue is that it doesn't know if it wants to be a comic that does that in a thoughtful mini-event or if it wants to be a BIG event comic full of shocking deaths and mysteries.

"Heroes in Crisis," has some intriguing moments of what look like recorded bits of assorted heroes talking to an unseen professional about their problems. These moments are well-written, quiet vignettes that show the vulnerabilities in all of us. Then the comic has other scenes in the, "Present," where a whole bunch of slightly big-name heroes have been revealed dead (Arsenal/former Green Arrow Sidekick, Wally West/a fan favorite version of the Flash, some other ones you don't care about) and it is looking like somehow either Harley Quinn or Booster Gold murdered everyone who was at Sanctuary (and destroyed the therapy-robots). The comic of course plays-up the whole, "Was it the villain or the supposed hero?" element heavily as well as hinting that the confessionals heroes do at Sanctuary may not be as secure as assumed. It's the kind of over-the-top melodrama expected of big events (fights, deaths, mayhem!) and feels sharply counter to and out-of-place with the more introspective flashbacks full of heroes ruminating on such heavy topics as obsession, trauma, and putting on a brave face despite being terrified inside.
From reading, "Heroes in Crisis," second issue it starts to feel even more like there was an idea for a slower-moving and meditative book that explored psychological concepts of what makes our supposedly selfless heroes tick and what kind of problems they deal with...and then it was decided to jam-in the elements of a big event full of blood and bodies to--I guess--give it more, "Oomph," and generate some headlines. After all, "Superman struggles with clarifying his clumsy Clark Kent identity versus his heroic one," isn't quite the draw for clicks as, "DC killed Wally West!" It's a shame as there is a smart comic in here full of interesting considerations about heroism, but it finds itself overrun by the desire to have a, "Wham-Bam!" event full of fighting and, "Shocking," deaths that seem mandatory in any, "Shocking, world-changing event." Perhaps things will come together better as the book proceeds, but for now this is a slightly wasted mess of potential.
2.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 2, 2018

"Nina and Ariel," #1 Review

I have had a complicated relationship with the work of Ed Benes. Back in the earlier days of the blog there was a day when I was feeling extra salty and cranky so I was rude and called him a hack. Then years later I realized I liked a lot of his work and made a public apology. Some time later I saw he was doing a new Kickstarter for a comic he was creating titled, "Nina and Ariel," which I told folk about and backed myself. Well, the comic arrived in the mail the other day (along with some other rewards I qualified for such as some trading-cards and a bookmark) and I thought I ought to review it.

"Nina and Ariel," reminds me a bit of a comic from the publisher Boundless--and I mean that as a compliment. While some folk rail against Boundless as being pure cheesecake I find the comics have a nice mixture of high-concepts, action-scenes, well-paced plot, and sexy artwork. Within, "Nina and Ariel," Benes has all of that. The comic discusses a depressing future where Earth has been ruined and all the rich folk fled, leaving behind everyone else to fend for survival on the wreck of a planet (high concept. With this we witness our heroines dealing with all sorts of unsavory characters in violent ways (good action) before meeting one another and realizing they need to team-up by the issue's end (a well-paced plot that doesn't make us wait forever to have the heroines meet). Also, within the issue we get a lot of nudity that doesn't come-off as excessive or grotesque, but is reasonably erotic and enjoyable (sexy artwork).
Ed Benes is both the writer and artist for the comic, with it clear he put a lot of care into making this book as it is gorgeously illustrated. Every page screams with detail whether it is simply characters talking or a complicated fight-segment loaded with punching and kicking. It makes sense the book would look good of course, as Benes has been a comic-artist for some time. The plot is solid too, not necessarily wowing me as much as the art but still making perfect sense with some cool ideas thrown in and giving us an excuse to move Nina and/or Ariel to the next scene where they can either fight or enter a state of undress.

The first issue of, "Nina and Ariel," is a great read for fans of Ed Benes or anyone who enjoys a good action-packed sci-fi yarn with a solid dash of cheesecake art. I'm glad to have backed it on Kickstarter and will for sure want to pick-up any future issues!
4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

News and Links to Kick-Off November

It Has Been a Bit
I used to have an article or two full of news and links at least monthly. I haven't done that as often for a bit, so how about we rectify that and kick-off November with some things I found interesting/worth sharing?

Stuff to Learn About
Much in the same vein of that Nintendo NES Classic full of pre-loaded games people were going nuts over, the Playstation Classic has been announced and looks pretty cool. There are some games not included that have people scratching their heads, but most exclusions have their reasons as well.

With more and more news about Disney having plans for big-screen Marvel characters appearing in their small-screen streaming service, it makes sense the Netflix shows might kind of fade away. It makes some people really sad, but it makes sense.

While we are on the subject of streaming programs, it seems other people thought the 2nd season of, "Castlevania," looked good as I had thought too, as it had enough success to be renewed for a 3rd season on Netflix!

Here is some comic-business news for you. It was the case for some time that Dark Horse had as its majority owner a single person, Mike Richardson, making it the biggest comic-company that had a single person at the helm/with majority control. That appears to have changed with Richardson cutting a deal with a large company based in China where they now have more ownership and as part of the deal Dark Horse will expand its market into the Chinese market.

In, "Can this get any worse?" news, President (shudder) Donald Trump is trying to appeal to racist morons as the midterm elections draw nearer with claims he will try to get rid of birthright citizenship with an Executive order. This is of course not possible as it is contained in a Constitutional amendment and therefore can only be undone with another amendment, but since when has Trump cared about logic or the truth?

I had said the new, "Halloween," movie actually seemed promising, and it apparently was stellar. Also, it has been making a whole bunch of money at the box office, surprising some folk and giving Jamie Lee Curtis good reason to brag.
I'm a fan of Jamal Igle's work and thought this interview he did with The Comic's Journal website was a great read.

As someone with a love of both Funko Pops and who enjoyed the recent, "The Predator," movie even if it was a bit of a mess, upon hearing there will be a Target-exclusive bundle for people with the Red Card (a Target debit or credit card) that includes the movie and a unique Funko Pop, that sounds cool to me.

Now to finish with something quirky: I'm actually allergic to avocado, so hearing there is now avocado beer simply makes me shrug with indifference as opposed to either getting excited or having some kind of snarky comment about, "Us wacky Millennials!"

Have a Great November!
I hope we all have a wonderful November as the weather continues to get cooler and the days get shorter (unless you live South of the Equator, in which case it will get hotter and your days longer).