Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bloodshot Volume 1 Review

Let's do a review of the 1st trade from the series, "Bloodshot," put out by the new publisher Valiant comics. Well, sort-of new, they existed before and these other folk bought the line and have been putting out some quality stuff since. I haven't read too much of it for various reasons, thinking I would pick up the trades. Well,  I did just as I said I would and have enjoyed this first volume of the kind-of super-hero Bloodshot. Let's discuss!

Bloodshot is a character I never read the old material of, so I cannot claim to know much of anything about his 1992-era incarnation. This new version however is pretty cool. He isn't so much a super-hero as he is a marvel of science. He is basically a man pumped so full of nanomachines/nanites that as long as he is kept fed with protein he can heal from essentially any wound and have his mind messed with as easily as reprogramming a computer. This leads to how Bloodshot basically has no memory of who he truly is, due to the many times he's been used by the US on missions of questionable legality and ethics before having his brain wiped.
Bloodshot took part in some really bad things for the US.
Duane Swiercyznski writes and does a good job keeping the momentum going. The trade's first chapter/issue sets up the concept and by the end of the second, Bloodshot is running loose. The third and fourth sections show us a dark secret kept by the government about how the nanites can go horribly wrong, and introduce us to another powered-individual who can send out electro-magnetic pulses and basically fry anything electronic within a decent radius. Seeing as how Bloodshot is powered by machines you can see where the government's need for, "Pulse," as they call her, comes from as she arguably is the only person who can render Bloodshot powerless and possible to kill. By the end of the trade however a team of sorts has been formed between Bloodshot, Pulse, and another female who is an ex-soldier Bloodshot meets along the way named Kara.

Manuel Garcia provides some stellar artwork, with a bit of a Neal Adams-feel to it. I especially like how in the flash-back sequences (both real ones and fake memories implanted into Bloodshot) the style changes to a softer-look as if to represent the haziness of the past.
Bloodshot lives up to his name and gets shot, a lot.

I enjoyed this comic a good amount. Between the mystery of just who or what Bloodshot really is, the interesting characters we meet, and the well-drawn action it is a fun read. In conclusion  I'd check this or some of Valiant's other offerings out if you want to expose your eyeballs to some enjoyable images and story, and isn't that the right thing to do? Your eyeballs must be tired from staring at the computer so much (not that I'm complaining if its my blog your computer is showing).
4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Wizard World St. Louis Went For Me.

I was at Wizard World Saint Louis extensivelyFriday and just for a bit Saturday. I will now talk about it.
I found Wizard World's STL event to be very enjoyable. I was there surveying the retailer booths, seeing the cosplayers, and visiting with some of the celebrities (at least the ones I was willing to wait in line to say hello to). I also really enjoyed chatting with the various publishers, small-press, and independent comic-makers. I shall now discuss the most memorable and fun moments for me.

Big-Name Creators I Saw:

Probably my favorite part of the event came relatively early in the convention on Friday. I was on the show-floor and people had not yet swarmed Neal Adams. I went to talk with him and he was every bit as animated, outspoken, and interesting as interviews I have read with him make it seem like he is. We chatted about the future of comics with digital and print hopefully reaching a happy medium between on another and he told me more about one of his latest works, "Batman Odyssey" as I have only read half of it and he told me how I need to finish it. He also was eager to an interview sometime so before too long you all may be reading one I do with him! Check out his website here.

Another creator I met for the first time was Chris Samnee. His current work illustrating Daredevil is just stellar-looking and he was very pleasant too. You can see more of him here.

Readers of the blog have seen my interview with Cullen Bunn, and he was there too! View his page here.

There were other folk there too but I missed them or the line to talk to them was far too long by the time I got over to them (it was an hour-plus wait to even shake Arthur Suydam's hand).

Celebirties I Saw:
There were many celebrities there, and I didn't talk to all of them, but I was excited to speak with the ones I did!
I said hello to Lou Ferigno. I'd seen him speak at my undergraduate college, SUNY Cortland, and he was quite nice.
I saw Henry Winkler himself, probably best-known for his work as, "The Fonz," although I also loved him in the "Waterboy" as a young'un.. He was really up and about talking with the crowd and not just sitting at his booth.
I chatted with Billy Dee Williams for a moment. I told him I really liked his work in "Undercover Brother" and seeing him on "Scrubs" which seemed to surprise him that someone remembered he was on that show. He thanked me and I told him I loved him in "Star Wars" too, of course.

Small-Press and Other Comic-Creators
Other than talking with Neal Adams, speaking with all the independent comic creators was when I had some of the most fun at the convention. In no particular order here are the cool guys and gals.

Big Dog Ink was there. They are a publisher with a variety of comics coming out. I've seen them listed in Previews or at the comic store before, but haven't tried any of their stuff yet mainly because with this economy I've cut comics from my pull-list more than I've added any. After talking with them and hearing about their neat stuff I purchased the first volume of their dark-humor comic, "Penny for Your Soul" and should have a review of it up here before too long. See their stuff here!

Speaking of comics-imprints that have a dog-theme, I talked with the folk at Hound Comics about their stuff. I hope to review some of it soon too as it sounded pretty cool when they told me about their stories. View them here.
Last summer I met the guys behind "Gargoyle by Moonlight" at Project Comic-Con. I saw them again this year and bought some nice merchandise I should review before too long. See their site here.

I talked with the creator of small-press comic "Strawman" and bought the latest issue. It looks like a good read! You can view more of his general work at his business website here.

I met the people behind, "Zeroes Heroes," a cool-looking comic with some nice art. I hope to review some of their stuff soon too! You can see their online comic here.

I first met Neil Fitzpatrick at Project Comic-Con last summer and ran into him again at Wizard World. His stuff continues to look both cute and creepy (in a good way) with the fun characters that have big pupil-less eyes. His site is located here.
Bradley Potts has the website "Sunday Superheroes," where he posts a new installment of his comics on--when else?--Sunday. He also has some print-versions of his stuff. I'm eager to read his comics! See his site here.

I've talked about the guys behind HeadMetal comics before, and I saw them again at this convention. They have finished the 99th issue after the 1st just as they said they would and now will go about filling in the space of the character's life. Should be quite the saga when it is all done! See more of them here.

I met a couple who both make different webcomics, "Pictures of You" and "Tiny Pink Robots," by Gibson Twist and Rori, respectively. Both have different styles, formats, and foci, but both also have some cool art and look worth a read! See, "Pictures of You" right here, and, "Tiny Pink Robots," at this site.

I met the folk behind "Rocketbot" a website that supports comic-makers. It is interesting stuff. See their stuff here.

Two Other Neat Things
I also saw two other cool things that weren't directly related to comics but I wanted to mention too.

The Da Vinci Machines exhibit is currently in Saint Louis and will be through May 2013. While that itself is cool what is especially interesting is that the version that is normally in Australia is the STL one. The exhibit takes many of Da Vinci's famous sketches and makes machines based on them, its really fascinating stuff. See a description of the exhibit here.

I met the people behind the group, "Zombification Orientation and Defense," who enjoy going to conventions in zombie-fighting gear. They enjoy learning all about general disaster preparedness so as to be able to help in emergencies...and for when the zombies start rising, which you know someday they very well may do. Learn more about them here.

In Closing
Wizard World Saint Louis was a great time and I want to thank Wizard for putting on such a fun event. I would recommend going to one of their future conventions and a list of them can be seen here--check and see if one is near you! Meeting the creators, seeing the fans, and otherwise having a good time is why I like going to comic conventions. If you have never been to one you definitely should try it sometime!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Will Be At Wizard World St. Louis Tomorrow!

Tomorrow I will be at the Wizard World Saint Louis Comic-Con located at the America Center in downtown St. Louis. I'll be covering the event and milling about so if you see someone with a "Magneto Was Right" t-shirt that is most likely me. If you haven't gotten tickets yet but want to attend you can go to this link and learn all about the event. I will of course share summaries of my day and the interesting things that happened here on the blog so keep an eye out! I also will be "live-tweeting" from the convention so if you are into, "The Twitter," as kids call it you can follow me at @thenewestrant so do that too maybe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Let's Talk About (Joe Casey's New Comic) Sex!

I am unabashedly a huge Joe Casey fan and hope to make some mega-post in the future breaking down a bunch of his works that I have read and enjoyed. Therefore, I picked up his 1st issue of "Sex" not sure what to expect other than that I would at least have some fun reading the comic. Sure enough, it was a good debut but had some things that worked for it and at other times against it. For fun let's break things down that way!

What worked for "Sex" #1
The art is beautiful. I have never seen Piotr Kowlalski's illustrations before but they work wonderfully in this comic. Much credit should be given to the colorist, Brad Simpson too, as the beauty behind the neon-drenched feel of the comic is thanks to him.

The comic takes the time to make our protagonist, Simon Cooke, seem like an interesting character. He is a rich businessman who clearly used his means to fight crime before quitting due to a dying request of someone he cared about named Quinn.

For a comic titled "Sex" Joe Casey cleverly doesn't start letting things get dirty until towards the end of the comic when yes, there is a fair amount of sexual activity. Even when that occurs however there is a fascinating alternation between our hero viewing a sex act and remembering his promise to a dying older woman (the aforementioned Quinn) that he would stop being a super-hero after so many years of doing so.

What didn't work for "Sex" #1
We never see Simon when he was "The Armored Saint". This might be intentional and we won't see Cooke's super-hero identity for quite some time in the comic, but it did feel a bit odd.

The random high-lighting of words was more distracting than interesting. It just seemed random how some words would look like a randomly-colored highlighter was run over them for no apparent reason.

Even though in interviews Joe Casey has said that while Cooke was "The Armored Saint" he did nothing but fight crime and therefore didn't have a social life, the first issue of this comic only hints at that with Cooke's talking with the elderly Quinn. She says he lived, "A monk-like existence," and clearly there was a, "perverse thrill," in his dressing up as a hero, but the comic doesn't really make it seem like Cooke is all that sexually-repressed--at least at first.

In Closing
The idea of a super-heroes being sexually repressed and taking that repression out through violence is a fascinating one. Once the ability to get out all those repressed feelings by fighting other costumed folk is taken away, what does a hero do with all these urges? Like a teaser for the comic said, "What Happens When The Superhero Power Fantasy Ends?" That is why I am very interested in seeing where this comic goes even if the first issue didn't start to explore the psychological territory we were expecting very much in the issue.

Then again, first issues can be difficult because you have to introduce the reader to a world, its characters, the plot--all of that jazz. I'm interested to see where the comic goes even if the first issue wasn't amazing--just pretty entertaining. Plus, no matter what it will look good.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Film Friday, "Wreck-It Ralph"

I watched Wreck-It Ralph with my girlfriend this week to help take her mind off of her being sick, and because we both had been wanting to see it. Therefore, I rented it from a nearby Redbox kiosk and before long we were enjoying this quite-good movie.

Despite it feeling strongly like a Pixar-made production, this is actually all Disney's doing, with some of the people who worked on the film having done stuff for Pixar before. I say it feels like a Pixar movie because it has the tropes of a world that has to "keep character" when people are around (See: "Toy Story") and characters who struggle with accepting who they are but in the end are happy (See: Finding Nemo) while also learning a valuable lesson about teamwork (See: "A Bug's Life). The resemblance to Pixar is by no means a bad thing, however. The observed similarity is a compliment as "Wreck-It Ralph," is very charming and good fun.

While at times the movie may seem to move a  little slowly, it is still effective at grabbing attention, from our protagonist Ralph--voiced quite well by John C Reily--who just wants to be accepted and maybe not a bad guy anymore, to Sergeant Calhoun who comes off as delightfully harsh thanks to Jane Lynch the whole proceeding is very well-voiced and engaging. As Ralph goes from Calhoun's space-marine game to a kart-racer where Sarah Silverman's character, Vanellope Von Schweetz, desperately wants to get to race someday, we see all kinds of interesting conflict between the characters as well as hints of romance between others.Plus the cameos, oh the cameos!

If you are a fan of video-games, both new and old, you will be positively giddy at the appearance of various characters both famous and lesser-known from throughout the history of games. Sonic the Hedgehog pops in, the orange ghost from "Pac-Man" (also known as Clyde) gets some screen-time, and I'm pretty sure I saw the guy from "Joust" riding by on his ostrich-creature at one point. While the main games in the movie are fictional, having characters such as Q*Bert appear give these fake games a sense of real-ness. One notable absence is Mario, as he is mentioned at one point and Bowser is in the film but we never actually see Mario. I remember reading in an interview the film's creators felt such a character was a big-enough name that more than a brief-appearance would be needed to do the fellow justice (or Disney didn't want to shell out enough money for Mario, one of the stories is probably the case), so perhaps we will see him in a sequel.
Jane Lynch is great as Sgt. Calhoun

"Wreck-It Ralph" is quite an enjoyable flick, full of references to other video-games while also making viewers care about the original characters. While the film sometimes would go a little slower than I wanted, it otherwise is a stellar piece of film-making great for adults, children, people who like video-games, people who know nothing about video-games, and basically anyone who wants to enjoy a good story.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I've Got A Guest Post On Caffeineforge about The Sullivan's Sluggers Mess.

Just in case you can't get enough of my writing (in which case I thank you and will be sending an email shortly with my bidding), I thought you might appreciate knowing that I have a guest post up today on Caffeineforge where I discuss the comic "Sullivan's Sluggers." It started out as a Kickstarter success story and now has become one big and ugly mess that makes for quite a story. Won't you go and read it here?
Worst "Success" Story Ever.
As some readers may remember, I've been on the 'forge before talking about Kickstarter pet peeves and their very own David Winchester has done a guest post here on The Newest Rant about super-heroes not staying dead. You should read my article and then look around their site. They talk about comics too along with lots of cool and lame things on Kickstarter.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Trade-Review of the NU52 AKA Demon Knights Volume 1

Background and Why I Wanted to Review This
"Demon Knights," or if you want to be fancy and use the full title, "Demon Knights Volume 1: Seven Against The Dark" is book that was a part of the "New 52" re-launch and has done well enough to still be going today. This trade collects the first seven issues and features the main reason I picked up the trade, Paul Cornell as the writer. I wasn't interested enough in the book to pick it up when all the NU52 books were debuting as there was just so many that some I figured I would wait to perhaps follow in trade that seemed less, "crucial" to the DC Universe. 
It may not be as important to the DCU, but dragons are cool,
Now, despite this book tying-in to Stormwatch in the sense that centuries later the Demon Knights evolved into that organization, this is set way in the past from almost all the other DC books (oh, and Madame Xanadu is around here and she's in Justice League Dark also, but seems like a completely different person there so who knows what's up). Therefore, I felt I could miss the early and current issues of this and read the trade, which I was picking up pretty much purely on the strength of Cornell's name alone (you make the stellar mini-series "Wisdom" and its follow-up "Captain Britain and MI:13" and I'll give almost anything new you write a chance). Now then, what did I think?

Main Review OR To Sum-Up the Book in One Word, Decent
This tale of the Demon Knights is not bad, but lacking in anything to label it as "stellar". I had already picked up the trade before reading J. Caleb Mozzocco's review where he absolutely ripped the thing to shreds, so I was concerned as to whether or not I'd like the book. While I don't think the book was, "trash," I can agree with Mozzocco that at times the visual story-telling is disjointed and messy. There are other things that bugged me too. One thing that was both impressive and seemed rushed would be how within what would have been the "first issue" all the main characters are introduced along with their enemies. That is pretty cool how Cornell managed to do that but throughout these seven issues it seems we never get to know too many of the main characters well, with everyone getting little bits of "the spotlight" but never that much--except perhaps the Demon Etrigan who is around a fair amount of time.

Speaking of Etrigan one thing that bothered me might be considered insignificant to some readers and inexcusable to others--he doesn't speak in rhyme! Okay, sometimes he does but only at dramatic moments, otherwise he speaks just normal ol' English. As someone who is used to see him rhyming or making sonnets in many of his past appearances it is a bit odd. He still is an enjoyable character however, with his mean-spirited nature and basically being a villain who only does a few good things because his lover, Madame Xanadu, asks him to. It is also amusing to see Xanadu act like she loves Etrigan and not his human alter-ego, Jason Blood, and then tell Jason Blood she is in fact playing Etrigan. I figure the truth is she cares for both, in a way.
What the? Why isn't Etrigan rhyming? This is an outrage...maybe.
Vandal Savage also appears in a role styled much more in the "comedic relief" vein than other times in the "old DC" where he was kind of an evil master-mind--which is also how he is portrayed in some later issues of DC Universe Presents--so I suppose at some point between medieval and modern times ol' Vandal must have gotten smarter and more evil (although he is still pretty evil in Demon Knights in some of his actions).

There are other characters too but I can't remember much about them other than that there is the guy who invents stuff, the lady who rides a horse constantly, the Wonder Woman-esque Amazon, and a female knight heavily drawing more from the Grant Morrison, "Seven Soldiers of Victory," than the older versions of the character.

The art is pretty messy, as done by Diogenes Neves, with the storytelling being unclear a fair amount of time even if it looks kind of pretty. However, some of the characters fighting are velociraptors in armor with knives, so that is--as I believe the term goes--pretty freaking awesome--and excuses the lack of clarity some. Observe:
The plot itself is pretty weak; we have an evil Queen (and her sorcerer minion) who wants to attack a city and has to take out a little village along the way which happens to be inhabited by our heroes, battle ensues, etc. One saving grace is how at the end when we see the ruined battlefield someone tells the heroes, "Here today, you have won a great victory," and the irony of such a statement is abundantly clear. The thing that mainly carries this though is how some of the characters--such as the aforementioned Etrigan or the humorous Vandal Savage--are fun to read. With art that is often confusing even if it looks decent, and a plot that is quite dull, Cornell's characterization of some of the characters at least makes me want to keep reading.

All-in-all this is a decent book, as I said before. I'm interested enough to want see what happens in the next volume of the story but if that doesn't impress me a bit more I may not bother with any future adventures of the Demon Knights. Still, if you are interested in the past of the new DCU this might satisfy your cravings for swords-and-sorcery.
3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Was Right About The New "Simcity"...So Why Do I Just Feel Sad?

In early February I posted about how I could not buy the new "SimCity" because I would feel like I was encouraging its horrific version of DRM (the seemingly innocent sounding "Digital Rights Management"). The plan to make it so that players had to always be online to play SimCity was clearly a disaster waiting to happen, as had been illustrated by Diablo 3 and its launch. I didn't think things would be even worse however. The game is still a wreck even if it is supposedly getting better. I agree that the game, "Is Inherently Broken," and its sad to see it like this.

Thanks to The PA Reportfor this clever image.
I was right in presuming that the launch of SimCity would be a mess, and clearly a game that would work fine offline is sheer havoc when everyone wants to do something as simple as just play the damn game because people have to be connected to the web to even do anything beyond booting the thing up. We were fed all the lines about how this wasn't DRM, it was there to make the player's experience better, and I think more people realize they were being given rotten meat whilst being "informed" it was a feast. now that the meal has arrived we see the truth.

The thing is, people can't "send this back" as it were because EA doesn't want to give refunds to all the people who would rather not own the game because, you know, they want something to actually work. Those who bought physical copies from the "Origin" store maybe can get their money back, but if you live in the US and bought this digitally you are SOL.

The burning buildings represent the usual status of the game's servers.
As I stated, I was right and everything is a mess, so why don't I feel happy? All I feel is sad that my worst fears (and then some) came true and yet again the always-online DRM proved it was a mistake to even have exist. I'm upset that Maxis and EA thought they could fool people and even more sad  for the players who simply want to enjoy their game but can't. I don't feel vindicated when I think about all of this, I just feel depressed.

I still hold out hope EA and Maxis will make it so that the game can be played in a truly single-player fashion, offline. That chance may be ever-so-slim but I hope it will happen because if it does people will actually be able to play a game that is apparently pretty fun when it is functioning correctly. Come on EA and Maxis, do the right thing.

Some Brief Thoughts On Marvel's New Digital Efforts

Marvel made some big news at SXSW with various announcements. Let's chat about them with a healthy dose of humor & snark because I'm feeling spicy today. What's that? Yes, links will be provided (with much of the more-detailed info coming from "Comics Alliance" so thanks to them)!

Everbody Loves Free
At SXSW Marvel made some big announcements. The first thing that is most pressing due to a time constraint is that you can currently get 700--yes seven-hundred--first issues of various Marvel comics for free on the interwebs (as the kids are calling it these days). The catch is you only have until Tuesday, so get downloading! What's that? Comixology is crashing from the flood of people trying to download the free 1st issues? Well that sucks.

An Evolution of Marvel's Digital Works
While there has been the whole "Infinite Comics" thing from Marvel, that has been shorter little comics that expand on stories in the print publications. Marvel is now however going to release a digital chapter of a story every Tuesday for the whole year (starting July 9th), with a total of four different 13-chapter tales. The first one will be about Wolverine in Japan. This isn't too surprising, Marvel is basically just expanding their digital attempts with comics that are even more specifically tailored for mobile devices or tablets than ever before (at least from them, plenty of folk have made some cool comics that take advantage of the digital format, but Marvel doing it means its gained popularity as an idea). Still, it is snazzy that Marvel isn't content to just be throwing their print comics up on the internet or posting little mini-stories, instead now expanding to full-blown potentially interesting tales that will be custom-made for today's digital technology. I just wonder how they will get the almost-surely inevitable print-copies to work out.

Comics with Soundtracks
For the last thing of note I shall discuss the strangest thing that was revealed. Marvel showed everyone their, "Adaptive Audio Experience," also known as, "Project Gamma," for no apparent reason. What does that mean? Well, "Basically, PG [Project Gamma] will play audio while readers progress through a digital comic story, and tailor musical tunes and other sounds to a given reading pace on the fly to ensure there's not a generic looping soundtrack in the background." I'm concerned that this could just be one big mess or come off as an extremely silly gimmick. However, I also am hopeful this could be really neat and even has some ever-so-small chance to revolutionize the way we read comics. Still, it is kind of worrisome that a medium which is sort of defined by its being made-up by static images is trying to be more like a movie, television show, or video-game by adding in a soundtrack of sorts--kind of like the special nature of comics is being diluted. Then again, prose books have had, "books-on-tape" that feature talking and music for a long time so maybe I'm just being old-fashioned and whiny.

What Will Work? What Won't? Who Knows?
Marvel has some interesting ideas, and the offer of free first issues is pretty cool even if they ought to expand the number of days that promotion will be running. How well the whole "adaptive audio" will work out I have no clue, but releasing digital-only comics has worked for other entities and I would expect it will work for Marvel too. Time will tell what turns out positively and what doesn't. Well, time and people complaining on the internet just as yours truly often does.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A New Comic Publisher Whose Work I'm Enjoying--Comixtribe

Some Good Stuff

Comixtribe is an independent comic's publisher that has put out some neat stuff. They started out super small-press, not even using Diamond Distributors as they were just so new and little-known. Instead they went directly to comic stores and would see if said stores were interested in stocking their comics. That is how I came across some of Comixtribe's stuff a bit ago in one of my stores, "Newcastle Comics". I've been happy to see they have grown enough to the point you can now find their fine books in "Previews". Thanks to my store having a good stock of it, I have read everything they have put out so far. Therefore, I thought I would discuss their comics.

"Scam" #1-3

This has had the most issues put out so far, with three currently released. This is has been described by folk as "Ocean's 11" with superpowers and I'd agree. You've got a team of people trying to run a con-job on a casino owned by a former member of their team who screwed them all over awhile ago. It's a a fun read that I've enjoyed but have a complaint about. The art is quite nice, but doesn't always make all the characters look too different, which can be a problem as the story mainly focuses on a few of them resulting in the rest feeling a bit interchangeable or otherwise forgettable. The plot itself is continuing to intrigue me however, as the twists and turns are not always what I expect--a hard trick to pull off on someone who has read enough comics to often accurately predict what is going to happen in a book.
3 out of 5 stars (for all the issues together)

"The Red Ten" #1-2 & "Oxymoron" Hardcover

I supported the "Oxymoron" Kickstarter and was pleased to see it grow into a bigger hardcover with nice alternate covers and other goodies. I supported it at the level where (with some extra funds for other goodies I wanted) I got the signed book (with a snazzy alternate cover) and it had an artist's sketch inside, some pins, a bookmark, an art print, and Kickstarter-exclusive alternate-cover versions of "The Red Ten" #1 and #2. All this was 40-ish dollars and a good deal if I do say so myself. The "Oxymoron" book focuses on the villain of, "The Red Ten" as he engages in various adventures, some humorous, others gruesome. While he may be inspired by the joker what with the grin and his nemesis being an analogue of Batman, Oxymoron is unique enough that it doesn't bother me. He's a villain obsessed with contradictions enough to a point he'll even do seemingly "heroic" things such as fight zombies attacking the town because he can't stand something as oxymoronic as the "living dead".
The cool alternate cover I got via Kickstarter
Oxy is no sweetheart however, doing things in his hardcover to people that are just cruel and monstrous. Be it forcing a supposedly "selfless" man to make a horrible choice, or crashing a beauty pageant and making everyone grossly deformed, Oxymoron is a sick man. That makes it all the more interesting how in the first issue of "The Red Ten" Oxymoron apparently has killed himself after killing the hero who always stopped his exploits. Having lured the rest of the heroic group to his island however things get interesting when it becomes apparent everyone is going to be killed one-by-one. The heroes are all substitutes of sorts for other famous heroes--which is acknowledged in the first issue's afterword--but as is also pointed out, because these aren't Superman or somebody else we actually could see these characters die. Plus, the heroes that have spoken so far have enough of a personality all their own I don't mind the clear similarity to other "big name" heroes.

The dark humor of the "Oxymoron" book is enjoyable, plus the "And Then There Were None," styled retelling with superheroes in, "The Red Ten" also is proving fun. The characters in these books seem to have more personality than in, "Scam," and my only issue with these publications might be that because the "Oxymoron" book has a variety of writers and artists at times the tone and look can seem to swing from funny to scary at a jarring pace. "The Red Ten" is a bit more tonally consistent so that isn't a problem with the comic series. I would definitely recommend "The Red Ten" if you want a fun tale where the heroes may actually meet their doom (spoiler for those who never read "And Then There Were None", it doesn't end happily). If you find yourself intrigued by the character of Oxymoron then check out his book too, though it isn't necessary to get enjoyment from "The Red Ten".
Oxymoron Hardcover
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Red Ten (both issues)
4 out of 5 stars.

"The Standard" #1
Only one issue of this has come out so far (via Comixtribe, it was distributed in the UK previously) but I've enjoyed it so much this is probably the Comixtribe comic I'm most excited to read more of. It is focused on how there was a superhero named "The Standard" who retired and his protege took over. The protege revealed his identity however and now is a celebrity who does more work for his reality TV show than actually fighting serious crime. The shock ending of the first issue is what really grabbed me and made it apparent the old "Standard" is going to need to come back to hero-ing. The comic has a single artist but he alters his style to show the old-times with the Standard being fun and fluffy while in the present day things can get pretty grim and violent as that shocking ending showed. The next issue can't come soon enough!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Conclusion: Give Them A Try
Sometimes it can be scary to try a comic by a company you haven't ever read the work of, or which features new characters. You shouldn't be afraid to try new stuff however, because you might discover a neat publisher with some snazzy books. Comixtribe's works aren't perfect, but of a great quality and very enjoyable. You should definitely give one or two of their publications a try if you want comics about powered-folk with interesting twists.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Beautiful Book--"The Golden Age of DC Comics"


Art-book maker and publisher Taschen puts out some damn pretty books. Whether its one of their "sexy books" about legs, a huge hardcover about James Bond movies, or a title collecting beautifully-done Polaroid pictures (why look here, a review by me of said book!) they put out some impressive stuff. Therefore, you can imagine I was interested when I saw one of their new releases was "The Golden Age of DC Comics". Considering how gorgeous their titles always are I knew the book would look good, but would the text be informative too?

The Review Itself

First off, let me say this book is jam-packed with information. If you wanted to know about DC Comics in the Golden Age (well, to be exact the entities that would become DC) this publication will fill you in. From pre-Superman works to of course the big-name releases such as "Action Comics #1" the opening parts of the book are intriguing. I myself however enjoy the writings about later golden age titles that people may not think of these days. After all, who remembers the original Guardian (all of you who thought of the one from "Seven Soldiers of Victory" are off by a number of decades), or the time Superman, Batman, and Robin displayed how having your own, "Victory Garden," can help support our troops? Classic propaganda such as that is so fascinating in its camp value today I can't help but love it.

All the old war-themed comics, cute-animal comics, and western-themed comics are discussed too--plus there is some history of MAD at the end of the book talking about before it became a magazine and was a comic. In what is now bittersweet due to his recent passing, there is also an interview with Joe Kubert as the man himself drew many golden-age comics (for example, he created Sgt. Rock.

If I were to have a complaint about the book, I can't recall much if any discussion about how many of the creators of these comics died and are dying without recognition or funds because back in these days it was common for a comic company to screw over creators--with the practice continuing in the present (Hello, "Before Watchmen"). Hell, the Siegel estate is still fighting in the courts with DC about Superman to this very day.

 Seeing as how DC gave Taschen the rights to publish all this fascinating stuff about their "Golden Age" of comics however I imagine the company wouldn't be too pleased with the book calling the company out on such matters. Therefore, I can't hold the lack of discussion about the terrible way DC has treated some of these creators against Taschen. Still, it can feel a little awkward to read about the creation of Superman, Batman, and all the other golden-age heroes and then log online and read about how DC has "thanked" these amazing people in horrible ways. If you think of this book as more of an overview of DC's comics and less a fully-fleshed out history it isn't as much of a problem, however.
Siegel and Shuster hard at work.
This book is just plain beautiful to look at as all the Taschen books tend to be, and is full of information. Putting aside how sometimes it feels a little selective in the history, this is a marvelous publication and definitely worth reading for fans of comics who are curious about the origins of some of their favorite DC superheroes.
5 out of 5 stars.

Side-Note: In the interest of journalistic honesty it should be noted I was furbished a copy of this publication for review--that never impacts the fact I'll be honest about if I loved or hated something, however.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The First-Ever Grant Morrison Comic I Hated--"Happy"

"Happy" OR This Mini-Series has Been Atrocious
I've read much of Grant Morrison's work. My favorite comic, "The Filth," is by him along with many other writings I adore. He has written things I didn't care for, but hated? No, I've never hated anything by him...until now.

"Happy" was an Image comic that basically consisted of Morrison trying to be like Garth Ennis (even getting a frequent collaborator of Ennis', Darick Robertson) with a hint of the ol' Morrison-wackiness (but not nearly enough). Whether this was meant more as an homage to Ennis or a critque of his work I don't know, but this was terrible. Yes, Garth Ennis uses a lot of swearing in his work, but Morrison just stinks at it--having characters keep yelling, "Cunt," for no discernible reason isn't edgy, it is just annoying. The only thing really going for this comic is Darick Robertson's excellent art (and one scene I'll mention later). Also, the idea of this peppy flying horse named, "Happy," existing in the depressing world of this comic is sort of cute, but as I stated, this whole thing is a mess.
One example of over-swearing to a point of hilarity.
Morrison wants to tell us a tale of a cop-turned hit-man who has the whole mob after him due to some special password that lets one access a ton of money. A missing girl who is going to be used for a sick movie with other kids and happens to be his daughter (we learn later in the, spoiler alert) has an imaginary friend which goes to our "hero" named Nick and tells him to go rescue the girl. Plus there is some kind of aforementioned password to access a fortune and a policewoman who was once Nick's friend, and...oh who the hell cares? I'm trying to scrub this series from my memory as it is.

This series was just four issues but felt like it took forever. "Happy" the magical horse didn't appear until near the end of the first issue and it wasn't until the fourth that much of a plot comes into play. A lot of the time we just get filler in the form of supposedly "scary" characters talking about how much they enjoy torturing people, or a bunch of swearing for no apparent reason.

The one thing that keeps this from being potentially one of the worst comics I've read is that Robertson makes some amazing art and there is one--count em'--one scene that is kind of neat. Nick plays a poker game against some toughs and one points out that maybe whatever strange entity he is talking to is not so much a tool as it is psychosis.

Otherwise we just get a comic that I did not enjoy, at all. These four issues have been a pain to go through and maybe that the last issue of this Christmas-themed comic came out after Christmas should have been warning enough for me to quit while I was ahead. Seriously though, Morrison has made some amazing works but this has not been one of them. Don't try to ape Garth Ennis, Grant, just do your own thing.

"Happy" Issues #1-#4
.5 out of 5 stars (the art and one interesting scene saves this from my rare zero-rating).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Three Video-Games that Happen to be the Third in Their Series That I've Been Playing Lately

Booting Up
There are three video-games I've been playing lately, alternating between them at various times. They all also happen to be the third in their series. They are "Max Payne 3", "Assassin's Creed 3", and "Far Cry 3". I've been enjoying them all for sometimes differing and sometimes similar reasons. I have not "finished" any of them so I won't say a review so much as my general impression of each game having played as far as I have. I will however give a rating of what my girlfriend, Samii, thinks of these games having extensively watched me play them all. Let's begin.

Max Payne 3
I'm about 2/3 of the way through this game and have enjoyed it a lot. Compared to the first and 2nd game this is quite different in how while the other ones did have somewhat of a cinematic feel to them they more-so almost felt like a comic book thanks to the graphic-novel interludes. Those are gone now, replaced by extensive cut-scenes and dramatic set-pieces. The game-play itself is fun but at times it feels like control is being taken away from me--the player--a bit too often to have more movie-moments.

One thing that has never changed in this trilogy however is the dark noir-feel that goes along with Max's misery. Early in the game as we saw our protagonist in his apartment sobbing and drinking so much he vomits, my girlfriend Samii asked, "Why is he so sad?" This got me to thinking about how throughout all the games Max has gone through enough in each installment of the series to utterly destroy any human being--losing his wife and child to drug-addicts high on a dangerous new substance, having the only other woman he possibly loved (Mona Sax) dying in his arms, and being shot and shot-at enough it could boggle anyone's mind. Why is Max Payne so sad? I suppose it is because his life makes a Greek tragedy look like a sitcom.
A rare moment of calm in the game.
For those who don't know the plot, Max has moved to Brazil to do security work and as with everything else he attempts to do, it all goes horribly awry. We play as him whilst the plot develops into less a case of a job gone wrong and instead possibly a big conspiracy, it's cool stuff.

As I said, the game-play is fun with its slowing-down time, ducking behind cover, and otherwise getting into amazingly choreographed gunfights. The story so far has really stolen the show here though, resulting in Samii being so captivated by Max's story and hoping things will finally work out she'll ask me to play the game so we can continue to be amazed by Mr. Payne's saga. I recommend people try this game without hesitation as it is a rip-roaring time. I know things probably won't work out too happily for Max, but my girlfriend and I can hope, can't we?

Samii's Rating:
"This game is extremely violent, but really interesting."

Assassin's Creed 3
Despite having a "3" in the title this technically is the 5th game in the series as after 1 & 2 there was, "Brotherhood" and "Revelations". I've played the first and second game but never got around to the other "named" titles. I did however do some reading so that I would be caught up on all the happenings before I booted up the 3rd/actually 5th game (Lucy was a triple agent, who would have thunk-it?).

"Assassin's Creed 3" is a lot like "Max Payne 3" at times considering how until around maybe the sixth "sequence" where I currently am the game runs on a (mostly) incredibly linear and scripted path. It seriously isn't until a player is maybe 8 or 9 hours into the game that you start getting the chance to just wander around and find fun side missions. This would be upsetting were it not for the fact that the story is pretty interesting and had myself and my girlfriend eager to see more. I had to spend a few minutes explaining to her what all this business was with the Assassins and their foes the Templars but once I had that background information out of the way she was able to follow along with the story in the game just fine.

The story itself follows main character Desmond (in the present day) as he uses the machine known as "The Animus" to explore genetic memories of his ancestors back in the times of the American Revolution. It's fun because there are all kinds of famous historical characters we meet and neat little twists on actual history that create a cool fiction (for example, did you know the Templars were responsible for the Boston Massacre? Now you do).
Climbing to perches will probably never go out of style in Assassin's Creed.
Another reason the game may spend so long holding the player's hand is there truly is a ton of stuff in it. From all the varied weapons, hunting, piloting a ship, exploring the Boston Underground, attacking forts, and even more side-interests this game is jam-packed with things to know and activities to do.

One major complaint is that this game can be really glitchy. There have been big patches to fix it up but things sometimes will go wrong and really break one's immersion. Be it a character's mouth strangely not moving when they talk, or having to restart a quest because you threw a bad guy in a spot you were going to need to interact with and now suddenly can't, this game can get really buggy. Luckily, it isn't too horrible a problem.

As I've said, I'm only on the sixth sequence where I've been taking advantage of finally getting some freedom and have been doing a bunch of exploring. My girlfriend has enjoyed watching me do the story missions but finds the plot moves along a little slowly at times--something I agree with completely. Also, she gets kind of bored when I'm off just wandering the wilderness or hunting various animals so if you want to play this with a friend watching you might want to stick with the main quests so they don't start yawning.
Despite my issues with the game's plot occasionally moving at the speed of molasses and glitches popping up, both Samii and I have found this to be pretty fun. I'd recommend playing this for sure, though if you haven't played any of the other games you may want to do some research into the complicated plot before starting this up.

Samii's Rating:
"It's fun, but it can be slow-moving."

Far Cry 3

I must confess that while I really enjoyed the first "Far Cry" on an old PC that could barely run it, I have never actually played "Far Cry 2". This game is also probably the one I've made the least headway in when it comes to the main story as compared to the other two games I'm discussing, but that's because there is just so much fascinating extra-activities to do!

Just as with "Assassin's Creed 3" you get a whole land to explore, with the difference between the games being  how in "Far Cry 3" after a relatively brief series of opening events the metaphorical gates are flung open and the island is yours to explore.

Now, while I really enjoy this game my girlfriend does not. She thinks the plot is cliche with the whole " hero coming to save the island," she finds the hunting mechanic in the game really gross because of how you see animal-guts when you're skinning the beasts (in "Assassin's Creed 3" the game tastefully cuts away once you begin skinning your hunts), and she feels the supposed scary bad-guy of Vass in the game is not so much intimidating in his insanity as he is annoying. Yup, she really doesn't care for "Far Cry 3".
Vaas did not impress my girlfriend unlike most other folk.
Now, while I'll admit the plot is pretty dull, the game itself in my opnion is just so fun! She might find it boring how I just wander around fighting bad-guys and hunting animals, but I love exploring the jungle, hopping on a hang-glider, and setting fire to enemy encampments. It might be boring if you're watching the game and want it to spin a good yarn, but if you are the one actually playing it you'll have a ball!

Whether I'm making bigger pouches to carry my ammo by hunting rare animals, or strapping C-4 to a jeep before I bail out of it and explode its cargo in a group of enemies, I really enjoy "Far Cry 3" even if its plot of your character, Jason Brody, rescuing his kidnapped friends is lame. For anyone watching the game though, it might be pretty "meh" to just see your friend running around not actually doing anything to advance the story--which as I've stated numerous times, kind of sucks anyways. I would recommend playing this game too, but don't expect anyone to be that interested in watching you.

Samii's rating:
"This game is boring and gross, I kind of hate it."

Shutting Down
I've now discussed the three games I've been able to play when I have some free time between school-work and general life. I've also told you, my dear reader, about which of these games is probably best to play if you have an audience. Each of these titles are being enjoyed by me, and two of them are fun in my girlfriend's opinion too. I'm excited to keep playing and eventually finish the games (or at least the main stories, I'm not going to spend hours gathering all the collectibles). There are so many good games out there I still have yet to play, and more coming out all the time! When I'm old and retired I'll probably boot up my dusty consoles and keep playing all these titles I never had the chance to get around to playing. I'm glad I've been able to enjoy these three games while I'm still young though, what with how in the future evil robots will control the internet and make it harder to write about anything. Now go out there and play some games between your reading of comics!

Side Note: I played all of these on a Playstation 3, other consoles (or a PC) can play them too of course.