Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Robin? Robin? NOOOOOOO!


I liked Damian Wayne. However, just as Grant Morrison truly brought the character into the world it seems it will be Morrison who takes him away from us. What a cruel world.

That is all.

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Sentence Summaries (of Some Recent Comics) Strikes Again!

It Begins
Back in October I tried out a new "bit" where I summarized some newer comics with one sentence. These were not reviews so much as first impressions of various comics I had read or at least skimmed enough to make a snarky comment. I found it fun so lets do it again!

One Sentence Summaries of Some Recent Comics

Bedlam #4
This comic went from being a slow-burn murder mystery to the apparent serial killer just going all-out and starting a rampage, but the comic is interesting enough I'll let the jarring change of pace slide.

Fearless Defenders #1
An entertaining comic featuring female super-heroes which proves that just because the comic's characters have two, "X," chromosomes that doesn't mean their carrying a book is an impossible task--although that lesbian kiss came off as somewhat creepy fan-service.

New Avengers #3
This is still moving a little slowly for me but we are starting to see where this syncs-up with the normal Avengers' book, plus I like how Captain America never compromises his morals unlike those other gutless folk in the Illuminati.

Justice League Dark #16
I like this comic, but feel something is missing which is preventing the book from really "clicking" for me.

All New X-Men #7 
This is good so far, but God help me the near-weekly release schedule for the comic is kind of absurd.

Thunderbolts #4
I stand by what I said about this being a good series even if people hate on it--it's an interesting book full of terrible people doing terrible things.

X-Men Legacy #5
This continues to be the best Marvel NOW book that people seem to not be reading.

Scarlet #6
Holy crap, this comic still exists after a year-or-so delay and is pretty good?

Deathmatch #2
The intrigue behind how all these characters became forced to fight each other continues to be more interesting than the fights themselves, and that's perfectly fine.

Young Romance: The New 52 Valentine's Day Special
This contains completely forgettable stories, but those Valentine's Day cards you can rip-out and keep (or give to people) are just adorable.

Daredevil: End of Days #5
If one of the apparent Daredevil replacements isn't Danielle Cage (the daughter of Daredevil's friend Luke Cage and Jessica Jones) I will be quite surprised.

Avengers #5
There is a callback to Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" which I loved but otherwise this was just a bunch of random space-junk featuring everyone's favorite forgettable aliens, the Shi'ar.

Stormwatch #17
The dysfunctional nature of this team makes The Justice League look like one big happy family.

It Ends
There we go, I hope you enjoyed my summaries and perhaps noticed that three of the comics I reviewed were written by Bendis. That guy has continually written a ton of comics for years now, I wonder when he sleeps?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

DC Comics and Orson Scott Card Have Got People Angry, And I Honestly Have No Opinion...Is That Bad?

DC recently announced the various contributors to their new digital-followed-by-print anthology, "The Adventures of Superman." One of the people working on the book, Orson Scott Card, resulted in a huge amount of anger and protest followed by calls for boycotts or other such action. All of this had me asking the deep, soul-searching question, "Uh, who is this Orson Scott Card person?"

Apparently, Orson Scott Card is a sci-fi author whose work I honestly have never read (the books, the comics, any of it). Then we have Superman whom everbody knows, but Superman also is a character I generally don't read solo-adventure books of.  Therefore you end up with someone I've never read writing a character I shrug my shoulders at.

When the New 52 happened I read Grant Morrison on, "Action Comics," for seven or so issues before I realized that I was bored. Unless it's, "All Star Superman," not even Grant Morrison can get me interested in Supes by himself. Superman and the Justice League playing off each other? Sign me up! A comic focused on Lex Luthor such as the comic, "Luthor," by Azzarello & Bermejo (or the Paul Cornell run in Action Comics)? That sounds good too! You just give me Superman though, and I'm going to pass on the comic almost always--I will see the new movie though as that looks like it might be fun. This lack of interest is why it is awkward to say I don't have much of any opinion about DC getting Orson Scott Card to write a Superman story for their new digital-first-followed-by-print anthology series, "The Adventures of Superman."

 I don't have an opinion because I just completely lack any interest in Card or Superman. From what I've heard about Card he seems to be quite the jerk, working with an organization that tries to stop marriage equality and writing articles about how all gay men are bound to be child molesters or were molested themselves. That said though, I just know so little about Orson Scott Card that I don't really care what he thinks; I've never read his stuff or listened to him and lack any plan to start doing so. I would be lying to you if I said I'm not going to pick up the Superman comic as some form of protest. This is because regardless of whether the comic had Card's involvement I still would not be buying it. It's a comic about just Superman, and most of the time those don't interest me.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, but really this whole business affects me and my comic-buying plans exactly 0%. Should I have more of an opinion? Does it matter that I don't? Somebody tell me, because I just don't know....or care.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Let Me Get This Straight--DC Is Actually Calling Their Event, "WTF Month"?

"WTF," indeed.
I'm going to tell you story about something that seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out to be one of the stupidest things ever attempted. I was in junior high and there was a big contest our science club entered (yes, I was in science club, I am a nerd). The idea was you had to drop a pumpkin from a certain height and have it protected enough by padding/boxes/whatever you chose that it didn't break at all.  Anyone who came up with the best design and showed it off won...something, I don't recall what. Anyways, we all came up with ideas in our science-club groups and one group decided they had the most genius concept of all. They wouldn't put the pumpkin in a box or something. No, they would get something really light such as a milk crate, place the pumpkin in it, and then outfit the milk crate with various complex parachutes that would result in the pumpkin floating to the ground from the 500-feet-or-so it was dropped completely unharmed. The crate would not have a lid, packing peanuts, or anything that could cause it to weigh more than the pumpkin and its parachutes. In other words, there was nothing to protect the pumpkin but this:
You probably sense things aren't going to end well.
The day came when we tested our designs out and the local fire station was kind enough to send one of their trucks over. Each team got in the fire-ladder, it would go up to the requisite height, and we would drop another teams box (this was to prevent any sort of cheating or something, I guess...although how you could cheat at this I don't know). I had the honor of taking the milk-crate pumpkin up and dropping it with the rest of my team. The group who had assembled it were looking proud. Yes, their pumpkin would gently come down to the ground utterly unharmed and they would look awesome, or so they thought.

The fire-ladder reached the required height, my team held the box over the edge, and things got ugly. The crate immediately flipped upside-down as we tried to let go and the pumpkin fell out. About 3 seconds later a loud, "POP," was heard as the pumpkin hit the ground and shattered into more pieces than all the King's horses and all the King's men could ever put back together. A split-second later the pumpkin was followed by the milk crate which had failed to deploy its parachutes even without a pumpkin inside it.

What had seemed like a good idea at the time was in fact one of the worst thoughts ever dreamed of. If only someone on that team had said, "Hey, maybe this won't work," something could have been done to prevent the tragedy that befell the pumpkin that day. No one did anything though, so when the team debuted their "genius" design and it failed spectacularly, all we could really do was ask, "What were they thinking?" and proceed to clean up the countless bits of pumpkin that had scattered everywhere.

I'm telling you this story because DC is doing something that I bet within their offices seemed like a good idea when they thought it up. No one in the office said, "Hey, maybe this isn't the best plan," so DC kept things going and before you could say, "Uh oh," they had announced, "WTF Month," for April's comics, and the metaphorical pumpkin had fallen out of the milk crate.

Within any of the mainstream DC titles you cannot under any circumstance have a character say, "Fuck," unless it is bleeped/blacked-out/etc. Sure, the Vertigo books can have all the swearing and nipples they want, but Superman won't be dropping F-bombs anytime soon. Therefore, I ask you to let me get this straight, DC is actually calling a month of their comics, "WTF Month?" For those who don't know, that stands for, "What The Fuck?" Generally this is used negatively, but DC apparently feels that with this month of comics that feature special, "gatefold covers," people will be so shocked when they fold the cover open to reveal the surprise they will exclaim, "Oh fuck, DC, you got me you motherfucker, what the fuck?" in one loud sentence of harsh expletives. Besides my finding it funny DC actually is encouraging people to pick up their comic, reveal the full cover, and swear loudly in front of everyone in their comic store (some folk whom may be children or not appreciate random cursing), I think that actually saying your comics are, "WTF Certified," or whatever is pretty stupid.

Saying, "fuck," generally just comes off as crass. If someone swears all the time you kind of think they have bad manners or are trying too hard to look tough or cool. DC does not allow the word, "fuck," to be uttered within any of the comics they are dedicating their, "WTF month," to this April, which makes this seem even worse because it is as if DC is trying to have their swear-cake and eat it too without suffering any consequences of using the f-word (with said consequences being people not picking up their comic for the children DC claims to be targeting more since the reboot). 

Anyone I have spoken with or read the words of on the internet seems to think this is a stupid idea. Do note I'm not saying having shocking covers is a bad idea. That could be a cool promotion that gets someone to pick up a comic they don't normally read, see the surprise when they fold the comic out, and maybe even buy said comic out of curiosity. However, actually calling this idea, "WTF month," is idiotic beyond belief. The pumpkin has hit the ground, but this time instead of a marvelous explosion we've just gotten a, "thud," of disbelief.

I'm sorry DC, but you've lost the pumpkin-dropping contest for the upcoming month of April.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Film Friday: A Soderbergh Trifecta

Soderbergh himself, in a recent photo from early 2013.
Opening Scene
Steven Soderbergh has directed numerous films with such varying tones it is amazing. Some directors find a genre, niche, what-have-you, and stick with it their entire career. Soderbergh, however, just makes whatever movie he damn well feels like--be it an Ocean's 11 remake, a flick about a high-end prostitute ("The Girlfriend Experience,") or one of the three films I'm going to discuss.

Soderbergh has said he is quitting/retiring/done with movies. He might do television, perhaps work on a play, but he's finished with the movies, and his newest release today, "Side Effects," may very well be the last movie we ever see from him (I hope it isn't). I haven't seen, "Side Effects," but I have seen other films that Soderbergh has directed, and I'm going to discuss the three that I feel are worth talking about. The movies are, "The Informant!" "Contagion," and yes, "Magic Mike."

Fun Watching Films
One thing I want to mention first, Damon is great in the two movies of these three he appears in. Both, "The Informant!" and, "Contagion," have Matt Damon involved, (although he gets more screen-time in, "The Informant!") and both of the movies have his characters in over their heads. Whether Damon is trying to eek out a deal with the government about his company's price-fixing or dealing with the death of his wife and son things sure aren't easy for him. Of course, in Contagion the big baddie is the virus and society's eagerness to panic, whereas in, "The Informant," by the time we reach the end it seems the most shady of everyone was in fact Damon's character.
Don't let the charming face fool you, this guy is weaselly.
While, "The Informant!" was a great movie it didn't seem to get as much press as the other two movies, which is why I can sort of link, "Contagion," and "Magic Mike," together. You see, the existence of these films themselves sparked our imagination, sometimes more than even the movies did. "Contagion," had everyone talking about how scary it is to imagine a virus like the one on the silver-screen. Picture something suddenly forming and coming close to destroying society, it is scary. "Magic Mike," had people talking because, well, women liked the idea of seeing a movie about a bunch of half-naked men, especially if one of them is Channing Tatum. Soderbergh subverts expectations with both movies in a way, however.
"Contagion, "the movie that had everyone washing their hands.
In "Contagion," some of the, "best," characters either die or have their story-line end with enough unanswered questions even their survival is in doubt--the more morally grey characters or out-and-out sleazeballs such as Jude Law's character manage to get out relatively unscathed--that's quite a change in the idea of the hero always winning the day. "Magic Mike," surprises you because underneath its glossy exterior of male strippers is an interesting story about human beings who are horribly flawed but trying their best to make life something that can be withstood. Seriously, pretty much none of the characters in, "Magic Mike," are particularly endearing, but they are fascinating nonetheless (Matthew Mcconaughey reminds us in this flick that if he's given a good role he actually can act the Hell out of it). Also, for a movie about male strippers, "Magic Mike," has a ton of female nudity--its almost as if Soderbergh realized some straight men would get dragged along to the movie who didn't care about his masterful storytelling in all his films, so he threw them a bone in the form of Olvia Munn's breasts .

Soderbergh went from a movie about how touching anything could be deadly to a film about half-naked men grinding on women. There's something interesting to that.
"Contagion," and "Magic Mike," both have the concept of time passing as an important aspect of the films too. In, "Contagion," we see how the virus spreads from Day 1 of its existence in a human to the bitter end of when a vaccine is finally created. "Magic Mike," shows us what life is like over a period of some months for our characters, with all the ups-and-downs of living that a month can entail. However, while, "Magic Mike," is more of study of just Tampa and its inhabitants, "Contagion," is a global experience of seeing how the world exists and falls into disarray. "The Informant!" involves the flow of time too, as we see Damon go from 30 or so years ago to near-present day.

Another thing linking these three movies is how Soderbergh always manages to get a stellar performance out of his actors. "The Informant!" has a ton of known and lesser-known comedians among its cast, but in a clever occurrence Soderbergh does not have them all necessarily being funny so much as he does just have them be normal people. Seeing Joel McHale not cracking jokes is a bit weird, but it illustrates that these folk have range beyond telling jokes. "Contagion," is just stock-full of amazing performances, from Matthew Damon to Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard to Brian Cranston, Laurence Fishburn to Jude Law, and Kate Winslet to Chin Han. "Magic Mike," also succeeds with its characters be it the aforementioned Mcconaughey being a huge jerk, Alex Pettyfer as the headstrong stripping-newbie, or Channing Tatum as the man who knows he's getting too old for stripping but has limited options--and seriously, getting Channing Tatum to do a good job acting is pretty hard; the man may look amazing but his acting tends to be a bit under-cooked.
Joel McHale is in a comedy movie, yet has a serious role. Interesting, no?
Soderbergh also is great with how he gets the, "look," in his movies. "Contagion," often seems to have a sharp, sickly color, and "Magic Mike," has a strange haze-y look much of the time except for the scenes that take place within the strip club itself, where the picture gets bright and clear, as if Soderbergh is saying everything inside the club is hyper-real and memorable while outside life for the characters is just more-so a blur. "The Informant!" has a variety of hues but mainly I didn't notice anything in particular about the lighting or shades that stood out. Yes, Soderbergh gets so much right in his movies. From the way it looks, to the acting, interesting stories, and whatever else he does to make all his films as enjoyable as they are.

Closing Credits
Steven Soderbergh has done a lot of work, and much of it has been great. This little exercise in discussing three of his films has been fun and shows that despite the immense differences in each flick he creates there tends to be things that unify them in some sense or the other. Soderbergh saying he is basically done with film makes me sad, but also has me wondering what fascinating things he could be cooking up next in whatever career he chooses to pursue. I'm eager to see what happens, aren't you?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why I Can't In Good Faith Purchase the New Simcity Game AKA Damn You, DRM!

Excitement Gives Way to Upset
When I first heard about there being a new SimCity game in development I was ecstatic.

To this day I still boot up my copy of SimCity 4 (with the Rush Hour expansion installed too, of course) and play it. I get a nerdy thrill from connecting my various cities' residential locations, industrial zones, and commercial-shopping areas. Having a perfectly balanced budget whilst maintaining the health & education of my population gives me an indescribable thrill. I'll even admit how I feel the weirdest sense of satisfaction from getting my population to switch from cars to using my majestic public-transit systems. Yes, I love SimCity 4 and would declare it one of my favorite games ever.

Hearing about a new SimCity that would be amazingly deep and potentially even more enjoyable just had me going nuts...then the news broke about the requirement that the game always had to be connected to the internet. My enthusiasm deflated so quickly you could have sworn you'd heard a balloon pop.

It Just Doesn't Make Sense
Games get pirated, but treating your paying customers as if they are pirates doesn't solve the problem. If your game could be played as a single-player experience why would you make it a requirement for a person to always be online? Diablo 3 has this rule and after a horrendous launch with servers crashing to a point people couldn't play the damn game there still is controversy about that stupid rule.

Therefore, even with SimCity having the online economy, the ability to play with friends, and all that jazz, why not offer some of us the ability to play in our own little sandbox that doesn't impact the "normal world"? I don't want the internet-community price of oil or whatever to impact my little land, just let it exist on its own. To hear claims that being online all the time is a computing requirement because the game is so powerful...that just boils my blood. You don't need all that power if you're offline, as has been pointed out.

Being forced to always have an internet connection is the most insidious form of DRM (also known by the seemingly-innocent name of, "Digital Rights Management"). I understand wanting people to have a code they enter once to play a game. I get a bit upset when every single time they boot up the game it has to verify with the internet it is a legitimate copy. I become outraged when you have to always be online to even play the thing as a single-player. I'm playing a game by myself, why do I have to be connected to the web unless I start bringing friends in?

Also, what if with one of these always-online games the company decided the game no longer made enough money some years in the future and shut the servers down? That is a risk people take with online games, but because it is thought your game no longer is worth running the servers for it becomes impossible to play the single-player mode? Imagine that happening.

This always-online requirement for SimCity is just a deal-breaker for me. It treats players as if they are criminals, is a pain if I ever want to play the game and my internet is down (or I'm somewhere with no internet), and is just something I can't in good faith support however-slightly by purchasing this new SimCity game. Until EA and Maxis make it so that you no longer have to be connected to the internet to play this II shall not be buying it, even if I get the best computer ever to play it and reviews rave over it.

I often support GOG because they sell great games with no DRM. I can play them on my own computer and if I get a PC I do not have to worry about transferring my games (which happened a year ago when I bought a new laptop and went smoothly as possible). I'm treated as if I'm a decent human being, and it feels good to not be perceived as a potential thief. Until I can say happily that SimCity is free of the always-online requirements I won't support it. It's DRM no matter what claims EA and Maxis want to make, and DRM is a wretched thing.

I guess I'll be playing SimCity 4 still for some time. It's okay, my regions will just get even bigger and better--without DRM in the way.