Friday, June 27, 2008

Black Racer vs. The Flash

I'm sitting here in the office with little to do, since my interview du jour fell through at the last minute. With all this free time on my hands, I did what I often do — lurk around the comic message boards and Web sites to see the latest news.

And, a DC panel from Wizard World Chicago talking about "Final Crisis" got me thinking again about that last page. If you haven't read the issue yet, you deserve to be spoiled for your tardiness.

Basically, that final page features Barry Allen running through time (either backward or forward, I don't know), he appears to be chasing after that time-traveling bullet, and he's being chased by The Black Racer.

Now, at the moment, I cannot perfectly recall Barry's initial death 23 years ago, and since I'm locked down to my desk for another couple of hours, I cannot go check. BUT, something about that page just hit me right now, and I actually haven't even seen this point brought up by anyone online yet:

Doesn't the Black Racer only serve as "Death" for "New Gods?" Isn't his soul job to return New Gods to the Source? I know there was that one time that he came for Steel, but that was a long time ago and plenty of metahuman non-New Gods deaths have occurred since then, and we've seen no sign of 'ole Racer.

So, I guess my point is, if the Black Racer is actually chasing Barry right here, and not simply the path of the bullet on its way to Orion's noggin, then what does that mean Barry Allen is?

Is Morrison trying to tell us something about our Heroes' celestial status becoming elevated? By the end of this mini-series event, are our heroes going to become New Gods of sorts? Frankly, I am still of the belief that a lot of the damage and repercussions of this story are going to be erased via time-travel by the final issue, but still, the fact that the Black Racer appears to be chasing Barry Allen is food for thought.

P.S. ... Whatever happened to Black Flash?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Daunte Culpepper sets Gaming World Record

I received a press release from EA Sports today saying Daunte Culpepper has set a new world record, which will be included in the Guinness Book of World Records: Gamer's Edition, in the Two-Minute Drill mini-game included in "Madden NFL 2002."

Culpepper, who appeared on the box of the game, set the record of 14,500 points while playing at EA's 20th Anniversary Premiere Party for "Madden NFL 09."

Now, here's what I want to know. What the hell is Daunte Culpepper doing still playing "Madden 2002?" Is he that starved for the good 'ole days when he was a top fantasy pick? Was he missing Randy Moss one day and said to himself "I just gotta find a way to have Randy back!"

How long has he been practicing on that game anyway? If this is actually a World Record instead of just a number conjured by Electronic Arts, he had to have been practicing for a few weeks before the night of the party.

And honestly, who this side of Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe gives a damn about the record in the mini-game of a seven-year-old video game?

Daunte, I have a little advice for you. Spend more time earning back a starting job and less time promoting "The King of Kong 2: A fistful of John Madden."

Buy Pile Report: Everything but Final Crisis

Well, that was a lot to get through this week. Honestly, Marvel, next time "Final Crisis" drops, do us all a favor and don't flood the market with top titles. Sure, you get your money anyway, but I just have too much to read before getting on here to post.

The Marvel book I was most looking forward to this week was Captain America #39, a story which I really thought might be the issue of the year, seeing as Bucky was going to come face-to-face with impostor Rogers. I was very wrong.

It's not that this issue is bad -- far from it -- it just doesn't stand out from Ed Brubaker's magnificent run. And, it doesn't help that Rob De La Torre was filling in on art this month. All in all, this is just another issue moving the story along, mixed in with a very cool scene featuring Agent 13. The only major problem I had with it was, Brubaker kind of wastes that big face-to-face moment I mentioned here, opting to plunk it right down on the last page of the issue instead of spending some time on it and hitting the right emotional beats. Oh well, issue #40 should be stellar, at least.

The Marvel book that really dropped my jaw this week was X-Men Legacy #213, featuring Mr. Sinister wreaking some post-humonous havoc. All those puzzle pieces leading to Nathaniel Essex come together in this issue, and they equate to a very intriguing prospect for Sinister's possible resurrection. I don't want to spoil it here, but the function by which dead Sinister is looking to accomplish the feat is completely original and really shows that Mike Carey has a strong grasp on how the different characters in the X-Universe think. 'Ole Chuck sure is taking a beating in this series!

Unfortunately, Uncanny X-Men #499 was nowhere near as good, a story that felt utterly rushed in order to fit the ending into the time-frame leading up to the big milestone next month. I was actually really enjoying this book, due to both the light-hearted story and the strong art over the past few months since "Messiah CompleX," but the story came to an all-too quick blink and you miss it resolution here, and the art (in the San Francisco portions at least) was sub-par.

But, all that rushing does set us up for the big issue #500 next month, in which we get to see what this grand new direction for the X-Men is going to be... you know, again.

From DC, Green Lantern #32 was an issue to remember, featuring Hal Jordan's first meeting with Sinestro. And, though it continues in that "Secret Origin" arc so many have questioned the need for, this is one issue that feels completely fresh and entirely of Geoff Johns' influence. While there is plenty to love here, from the Hector Hammond sections, to the Carol Ferris character moments, to Sinestro's just plain cold coolness, I think what I enjoyed most in the issue was the voice Geoff Johns put in Hal Jordan's mouth. This is a very different character than the Hal we know now. He's cocky, and brash, and a know-it-all ... only back then he really had no right to be. Sinestro gives him a good old fashioned lesson in humility here, and it only makes me more stoked for next month's installment.

Teen Titans #60 wrapped up the "Terror Titans" arc well enough, and as expected, the good guys came out on top. That said, I was really unhappy with Sean McKeever's writing here. Over the last few issues, he's shown Ravager to be more than a team player, he's shown her to be a powerhouse of a good guy, who has really turned her evil ways around. And, over the last year or so, her teammates have taken notice. So, why then did the story end as it does here with -- SPOILER ALERT -- Cassie and Robin agreeing Rose needed to be kicked off the team and Rose running away after overhearing that? Hell, she was the main character keeping my interest in the book, after Cassie and Tim have gone and gotten very boring of late.

And yes, I know she is going to star in the "Terror Titans" mini-series coming up, but it all just feels so fake and forced. I don't know, this book just isn't as fun as it has been in the good old recent days of Johns' writing. And if it's not going to at least be fun, then it can at least make sense. Right now, the stories are just so-so in both regards. Hopefully Ravager will get her due in the new mini.

Finally, a quick note on Trinity #4... Our heroes are still dealing with Konvict, and he seems as powerful as ever. I don't feel like anything has happened in this book since the mid-part of the second issue. I said it last week and my fears are only growing... is this book's story going to be horribly decompressed to stretch over 52 issues?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Buy Pile Report: Final Crisis

The most important book of the month, both in quality needs and economic needs for DC, came out today in the form of Final Crisis #2.

As I said in the preview last night, the first issue of this event book not only did not take top spot on the sales charts for the month, but it was only really enjoyed by a minority of the fans. Some were unhappy the book did not adhere to recent continuity, leading to confusion, while others were unhappy the story was inaccessible to newbie readers.

Well, half of that quality problem is fixed here -- and it hits you out of the blue in this issue. Honestly, 17 pages into this issue, I started to wonder if this would be the worst story since "Amazons Attack," wondering if getting through the next five issues was going to be like grinding teeth.

And then, like a flash (no pun intended), the 18th page, 58th page of this series, will open your eyes wide. And, the 61st page will drop your jaw to the floor.

Morrison's master plans for this whole idea of the New Gods inhabiting human bodies really starts to take shape here too, which helps to draw you into the world of the story.

There are even a couple of nods to past continuity here, believe it or not. At one point, in a word bubble that seemed like it might have been added recently, Batman says "According to my sources, the Secret Society vowed revenge on J'onn after he impersonated Blockbuster recently," which is, of course, a reference to "Salvation Run." Later, we see a device in Bludhaven that looks very much like the device Desaad was playing with near the mid-point of "Countdown to Final Crisis." I could be wrong.

I am struggling not to give anything away, because I really think EVERYBODY should go and read this book, and pick up "Final Crisis #1" if you haven't already, because this second issue makes the first a lot more readable.

I only have one question that's starting to bubble in my head after reading, though, and it's due to one big-looking event that happens here... Is it possible the end of this book will see our heroes turn back time and prevent all this destruction from beginning?

This week's comic book expectations

So, before we get to the onslaught of Marvel titles this week, let's look at the three (not counting "Trinity," since it's a given) really top-level books DC is coming out with this week, all three of which need to score a big readership given how badly Marvel has killed DC in the sales department recently.

Obviously, it all starts with Final Crisis #2, the second part of a series that debuted in the worst way last month. To give you a quick recap, "Final Crisis #1," which was not the highest-selling book of last month, was met by fans who read all that "Countdown" crap (like me) with anger/confusion over what strange continuity Grant Morrison was pulling his story from. It was also met by complete DC newbies with confusion, since the story is pretty unfriendly to new readers. And while a small percentage did like the book, and a larger percentage than that is giving Grant Morrison the benefit of the doubt, the question is how much better can this book get in the sales department to help DC out?

And, oh yeah, there's a storyline that needs to improve, too, right? To recap for those who forgot, in issue number one, J'onn J'onnz was murdered, Orion died, and Dan Turpin came face-to-face with Darkseid, now in human Michael Clarke Duncan form. It was all pretty convoluted, feeling pretty much like Grant Morrison just decided he wanted to tell a tale and the rest of us loyal readers can screw off for caring about continuity. Well, from the five-page preview I saw of this second issue, it's not going to improve much.

Frankly, I am just taking the approach now that, Morrison is going to tell his tale and I'm going to appreciate it for what it is, if I can, and worry about continuity flaws when I'm done appreciating. Let's see how that goes.

On to writers I like better. Superman #677 marks James Robinson's first issue on the title, an event I am stoked for. Robinson knows how to add personality, or revive personality, into other wise boring characters, so he is the perfect man for the job on Superman's book, just as Geoff Johns is perfect on "Action." Now, Those two writers are planning on making the two books flow together much more closely in the coming months, but that won't begin until after Robinson's done telling his initial arc, one in which Superman fights old villain Atlas, so if you're only looking to by "Superman" in the future to make it sync with "Action," you don't need to buy this issue. But, I am confident Robinson is going to make it worth your money all the same.

Speaking of Johns, his Green Lantern #32 is the last of the must-buy DC books, continuing in the "Secret Origins" arc re-telling Hal Jordan's past. I'm not going to sell you too hard on this issue, since you should be reading GL anyway, but I'm particularly excited for this issue since, as the cover suggests, this is the issue where Sinestro starts training the young Jordan. And while that prospect is exciting enough, I am very interested to see what little hints Johns plans on dropping in this issue for use later on in the "Blackest Night" storyline, when Sinestro and Jordan meet again.

Now then. On to Marvel. The company that is trying to carve every last piece of the market for themselves this week, leaving "Final Crisis" with nothing. Marvel honestly has so much coming out this week and I think I need to handle their side of things as a lighting round:

Captain America #39: The cover says it all. How can you turn down a book, as good as this one has been, featuring Bucky meeting this new "Steve Rogers" for the first time? If the art hits a homer here, we may be looking at the non-event comic book of the year.

Fantastic Four #558: For as crappy as Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's first arc on the book was, Dr. Doom makes his comeback here and he's apparently looking for Reed Richards' help (haven't we done this storyline a lot lately?), a prospect that might convince me to give Millar and Hitch a second chance.

Immortal Iron Fist #16: A one-shot that features Danny Rand re-examining his life and his purpose, a should-read for any "Iron Fist" fan... heck, Matt Fraction's book is normally a should read. And, I would imagine this one-shot is a good jumping on point.

X-Men Legacy #213: Professor X's quest to reclaim his memory continues, now with Gambit in tow, and we'll get to learn more here about just how much Mr. Sinister did to shape the X-Men behind the scenes.

Secret Invasion Titles: Five in all! Ya think Marvel is going in for the kill?!?

Avengers: The Initiative #14: Another one of those flashback/flashforward sort of tie-ins reveals who was the skrull amidst the Camp all along. This one is for "initiative" fans and hardcore "SI" fans only.

Mighty Avengers #15: The second "SI" book this month with Yellow Jacket on the cover, he's presumably the focus on this flashback story showing how he was replaced by his Skrulltastic counterpart. Again, not required reading if you're not a hardcore "SI" reader.

Ms. Marvel #28: Ms. Danvers in a book set in that big Super Skrull Invasion of New York City, one of the bigger tie-in-able scenes it seems from the first few "SI" books. It should make for some fun action scenes.

New Avengers #42: Probably the most important of all the tie-ins, this is the third part of the arc explaining all that needed to be explained about "New Avengers #1," and promises to shed more light on the motivations for the Invasion overall. If you're investing in tie-ins, this is the arc to buy.

Secret Invasion Runaways/Young Avengers #1: Another tie-in set in the fight in New York City, but this one catches my interest only because both of these teams are all too familiar with Skrulls, and those are the people you always have to look out for in these big events. Plus, it's not like these kids haven't been shown in the mothership book, so we might see one or two revelations here.

That about does it, just don't forget about Project Superpowers #4, also out on Wednesday, a book that I'm convinced now will go down as one of the pretty darn great non-conventional superhero stories in the last 20 years.

Wednesday's comic release list

Quite a Wednesday coming up, folks! From DC, their biggest title that they NEED to score big numbers with. From Marvel, just about every bullet they can fire, trying to take that market away from DC. It's warfare, baby!

Check out the list at THIS LINK.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Incredible dropoff

So, it's been a busy last couple of days, and in fact, I just got finished baking a cake. That's right, baking a cake. If ever there was an illustration that the last two days have been busy for a 25-year-old guy, that's it.

Anyway, I wanted to get this up here: "The Incredible Hulk" raked in over 55 million dollars in its first week, not too shabby at all, fueling the near unanimous feeling that the "requel" was better than its older brother "The Hulk," which made 62 million in its first weekend, but dropped off by 70% in its second week.

Well, despite great reviews, "The Incredible Hulk" dropped off by 60% in its second weekend, making just 22 million this time around.

So apparently all that talk of the character of the Hulk being able to hold an audience with a better movie may have been premature. I mean, I'll be the first to admit how much better the second movie was from the first, but studios only care about Dollar signs, not quality. If there was no drop off with Ang Lee's version, he may have been at the helm for movie number two. Instead, we have two Hulk movies now that have underperformed.

Not a good sign for the Green Goliath. Unless the sales numbers pick up in week 3, we can say goodbye to movie number three.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

This week's video game releases

BIG list of video games this week, so click THIS LINK to see it.

The list is highlighted — at least for me personally, by "Top Spin 3." Why? Because I love tennis. More than that, I love tennis video games. Starting Monday at 7 a.m., I'm going to be glued to my TV for two weeks watching The Championships. Notice I didn't call it Wimbledon, I called it The Championships, its proper British name. That's how much I love Wimbledon. I mean, The Championships.

If I can manage to pull myself away from the TV at any time on Tuesday, it will be so I can go buy "Top Spin 3." But then I probably won't be playing it until the day's Wimbledon programming is over. Crap, wait a minute. I'm working Tuesday. Crap.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Heroes Season Two Release Date - August 26

OK, I have not seen this anywhere else on the net, and I've been looking, which is why I think this is the first official word on the subject...

Masi Oka (Heroes' Hiro) was on Late Night with Conan O'Brien just now, and Conan said the Season Two DVD for Heroes is to be out on AUGUST 26.

That's right, Amazon doesn't have it listed yet, we haven't received a press release yet, but Conan says August 26, so it's August 26!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Buy Pile Report

Well, it was an awfully average week... which only made Trinity #3 stand out that much more. And no, not in a good way.

"Trinity" debuted with a lot of promise, as Kurt Busiek began the story on a cosmic level, showing each of our three heroes experiencing ominous dreams, before his grasp of their three personalties was shown off when the trio got together and discussed their differing experiences. It was all very strong.

The last two issues, though, have been less promising. While at least issue number two featured a couple of interesting moments (Batman's illusion, Wonder Woman's do-it-yourself personality), this third issue made me very scared that this series is going to suffer from the big bad "D" word -- Decompressed Storytelling. Issue #3 is one big fight scene... between a big alien and the Justice League sans Trinity. So, essentially this whole issue didn't advance the storyline. By the end of the issue our trio does show up, but they do so little that it makes you wonder why they couldn't just show up at the start of the issue and forget the whole "JLA gets their butts kicked" thing. And don't tell me it's so we readers can see how much more powerful the Trinity is compared to the rest of the JLA, because the only idea that makes the DCU work at all is the idea that the littler characters make almost as big a difference as the big guns.

I fear I've gotten off on to a tangent. My point is, I hope "Trinity" is not simply using issues like this to lengthen an average storyline into a year-long storyline. I have my worries.

But, speaking of how important the JLA is, Justice League of America #22 was pretty good once again. I am really starting to warm to Dwayne McDuffie's work. While his dialog is still a bit hokey for my tastes, the fact is here he effectively juggles several different story points, showing he is willing to leave some pots on the burner and bring them to a slow boil, while also effectively takes a past storyline and make it all his own.

In fact, my only really knock on this issue is the solicitation completely spoiled the end of the book. This issue was promoted as Amazo taking control of Red Tornado's new body once again... and it doesn't happen until the end of the book. I was just waiting for it, and waiting for it, and waiting for it, and finally we get Badass Amazo back in full force --- only to run out of pages. Were this book solicited more cryptically, it would have been a far more exciting read. Instead, it's average.

Secret Invasion Fantastic Four #2 was also pretty average. Not bad, per se, just very predictable. With the appearance of Ljya, it wasn't too tough to predict she would flip on Johnny, they would fight, but eventually they would somewhat reconcile. Well, there you go, issue number two of three is over. OK, it was a little more exciting than that. The tool by which Johnny reconciles with her is pretty fun, but this was a very get-over-to-the-big-issue sort of read. It seems in issue #3, Ben, Johnny and the kids are taking a trip to their negative zone neighbors. Until that happens, this book was average.

In fact, the only books I read this week that were above average were, again, the Ultimate Universe books. For Ultimate Fantastic Four #55, it was the sixth-straight strong issue, with this one focusing on the interpersonal problems the Fantastic Four have been feeling. Personally, I thought this subject matter has been long overdue in this book. In fact, it seemed like, 25 issues ago when Mark Millar took back over the book, he jumped forward in time from the team slowly finding their way into being heroes into being an experienced team. We readers were completely robbed of learning the team's feelings along that transition. Here, we're finally learning about some of those feelings.

Meanwhile, Sue Storm is going through some major personality changes. If you like the Ultimate Universe's ability to completely change accepted 616 continuity, Ms. Storm's current thought-pattern is up your alley. I'm a little bit more of a traditionalist, so I was a little worried about Reed and Sue's relationship... that was, until the final pages of this issue. Now I'm just excited for what Mike Carey has up his sleeve.

Ultimate X-Men #95 was a similar continuity curveball. If you want an example... there's a new mutant drug that amps up powers and it's called banshee. Cyclops takes it in this issue, and he enjoyed it. That's right, Slim Summers took the drug. But, unlike that Cable/Wolverine revelation from 20 issues ago that felt completely forced and boring, the continuity at play here feels like an organic part of the story. And, as is most important in an Ultimate story. It all just feels fun.

I am completely on board with new writer Aron Coleite's story here, especially since I have no idea where he is going with this. I thought I had an idea, and then I saw the last page of this issue. Now, I again am clueless -- and I love it. I cannot wait to see what comes next, and I strongly encourage you all to give this longtime loser of a title another chance.

Still, despite the Ultimate Universe bright spots (I still can't get used to that idea), this was an average week. Here's hoping better reads await us in 7 days!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My new desktop background

I just spotted THIS LINK on the Newsarama blog, which sends you to Dustin Nguyen's blog, where he posted this image of his favorite Marvel men. He said he might draw one just of the women soon.

Anyway, I have a new desktop background now, and some of you might as well.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This week's comic book expectations... oh, and the Lakers are horrible

What a pathetic half of basketball. It's halftime at Game Six of the NBA Finals, so I figured I would type up these expectations as fast as I can. Although, it sure seems like the game is over already. Good thing nobody holds leads int he NBA, right? By the way, Stuart Scott needs to stop making Fave-Five jokes with Dwayne Wade. But I digress.

Here's a first on the blog: For me, this week's top theme comes from the ULTIMATE UNIVERSE.

That's right, send your sweaters to the folks in Hell, they need them about now.

Two Ultimate titles are coming out this week, and each has a load of momentum behind it. The most surprising book of last month turned out to be Ultimate X-Men. After years of horrible stories, new writer Aron Eli Coleite injected a Red Bull into the title, and the result was a great story featuring a new drug that amps up mutant abilities to the max. As Ultimate X-Men #95 picks up, a bunch of the X-Men have decided to take this drug, and it seems that Cyclops is either going to be joining them or leading them. Most importantly, the book feels fun again -- and isn't that what we look for in a good Ultimate Universe book?

Ultimate Fantastic Four #55 is also set to pick up on a load of momentum. Much like Ultimate X-Men, the Fan Four suffered through a little while of sub-par stories, only to rebound with a FANTASTIC arc featuring Ultimate Thanos (and, I think that storyline is coming out on TPB this week too, so look for it). In this issue, we're going to learn more about Ultimate Salem Seven, Ultimate Agatha Harkness (who now seems to be IN CHARGE of the Baxter Building), and we'll maybe even get to see more of the problems Reed and Sue are having. Amazing but true, these two issues have me pumped up.

And, speaking of Marvel's First Family, Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #2 comes out this week as well, continuing on the tangent that began in "Secret Invasion #1." Reed is off doing things in the main "SI" book, as is Sue, leaving Ben and Johnny alone with the kids in the Baxter Building -- which was sent into the negative zone. And, if being in the negative zone wasn't bad enough -- you just know annihlus is going to show up -- it turns out a VERY familiar Skrull is the one sent to target the Fan Four. Does a Mrs. Johnny Storm ring a bell? This is exactly the sort of story we were looking for, so pick it up and enjoy it.

This week a new story arc in "Wolverine" also begins, with Mark Millar and Steve McNiven at the helm for Wolverine #66. Now, I am no fan of Millar, as is no secret, but this story does sound promising, since most Wolverine stories of this sort tend to be at least entertaining. Basically, all the heroes have fallen, and Wolverine is still around. Now, he has to come out of hiding and go help some injured hero friends. See, I told you this was a very familiar story-type for Wolverine. Still it's worth a look.

Finally, I mentioned a couple of books earlier that had unsuspected momentum, well put this next title in that list: Justice League of America #22 follows Dwayne McDuffie's best two issues on the title, and could go for the hat trick here. Red Tornado is finally going to be put in that semi-human body -- but, apparently that little Amazo flu he had to start the series has not quite healed. Red Tornado has the potential to be the second most powerful member of the JLA, so it's always fun to see what happens when he has to fight the whole team. This issue should be pretty strong, and McDuffie is starting to gain my trust.

That's about it, a little bit of a slow week, but I'll see you right back here tomorrow with the Buy Pile Report all the same.

Wednesday's comic release list

THIS LINK is your source for the new comic books this week. I'll be back real soon with the weekly expectations, just as soon as this miserable half of NBA Finals basketball is over.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

This week's video game releases

CLICK HERE for the list of new video games this week.

There's absolutely nothing of note here, with the possible exception of "Secret Agent Clank," if you actually use your PSP.

And is it just me, or does "Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm" remind anyone else of that show on the History Channel "Ice Truckers"? Those guys are BAD ASS.

Nintendo suing Nyko over controller design

Follow THIS LINK to Gamespot for a story stating Nintendo is suing Nyko for the "Kama Wireless Nunchuk" controller (Above). Essentially, Nintendo claims this controller is too similar to their own standard Nunchuk (below), right down to the packaging.

Now, am I the only one who doesn't think this adds up? Third-party controllers are nothing new. I can remember owning one as far back as the Sega Genesis days (I had two first-party Genesis controllers, but one of them was found in the woods and the "C" button got stuck), and I would only guess there there were even one or two floating around toward the end of the Nintendo Entertainment System's lifespan. And they have always been pretty close to the shape of the first-party controllers with the same color — just like Nyko's Nunchuk.

So why throw up a fit now, Nintendo? Besides, you have no case. Nyko's controller is head-and-shoulders a different product than the first-party Nunchuk, since their's is wireless and Nintendo's is not.

Ah, but there you go. Could it be that Nintendo has a Wireless Nunchuk of their own they wanted to release soon? Maybe they're looking to eliminate the competition early. Or, maybe they've always had plans to release a wireless nunchuk, but didn't want to until everyone bought plenty of wired nunchuks so they could milk your wallets again.

I'm not sure, time will tell. All I know for now is third-party controllers have been around forever, and I don't see Nyko — or any other third-party company — getting into any trouble anytime soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

'Incredible Hulk" Review

"The Incredible Hulk," which was just released on Friday, was not a great film. It wasn't even a great superhero film. But, it was a great Hulk Film.

I can forgive Superhero movies for a lot as long as the characters are represented accurately on the big screen. It's why I am not afraid to admit to really liking "Daredevil," why found plenty to enjoy in both "Fantastic Four" movies, and why I will never again watch "X-Men: The Last Stand" or "Batman and Robin."

Well, I am happy to say that here, the Hulk was the star of his own movie. CGI or not, the Hulk actually shows enough of a range of emotion to make up for what would have otherwise been a glaring lack of plot and character development.

I find that pretty funny, too, because one of the bigger knocks on the original "Hulk" movie was the cartoony-CGI appearance of the titular character. Well, here, in this "requel" that was everything the first movie wasn't, the Hulk was anything but unrealistic.

And, since I mentioned the first movie, let me just pause and say, definitively, this movie is the much better of the two. And not just because the Hulk was RIDICULOUSLY BIG in the last movie.

While the first film spent hours upon hours dissecting and monologuing the dichotomy of Bruce Banner and his big green friend, Edward Norton's David "Bruce" Banner here is anything but introspective. He's a reactive character that is simply on the run and looking for a way to remove his condition.

But, the dichotomy -- a truly important part of the Hulk mythos even if the first movie gave it a bad name -- surfaces in the emotion the Hulk shows. He is not a simply raging, rampaging animal here, at times he genuinely looks like a creature that just wants to be left alone. That is, until something comes along that flares the 'ole temper, then it's "Hulk Smash" time. Toward the end, especially, we see a more aware Hulk that looks tired of constantly fighting.

In doing so, the Hulk actually looks like the misunderstood hero that he is, not simply a monster running around the Marvel Universe.

Just like narration in today's comic books has been phased out in favor of letting the art tell the story, Hulk's body language takes the place of Eric Bana's talking here. And, it all works.

But, perhaps I am getting sidetracked. After all, the most important part of a Hulk movie has to be the action, right? Well, the fights here are choreographed as well as you could have hoped for. First, I was enormously impressed with the imagination used in picking a couple of new weapons the military deploys against Hulk (Stark Industries supplied them!), then, I was impressed with the thought that went into creating Hulk's fighting style. He creates some weapons of his own!

The final confrontation with Abomination does not disappoint either. And here is where the differences from the first movie really appealed to me. My biggest problem with the original was not the slow pace and introspection, it was the main villain. I still don't know what the hell Nick Nolte was supposed to be at the end of that movie, so how can I enjoy watching Hulk fight... what was he, a hurricane man? Instead here, we get a more conventional powerhouse counterpart for Hulk to smash and be smashed by.

There have been much better superhero movie villains, for sure, but this was a perfect choice for a villain for Hulk. And, again, that's where this movie shines. It spotlights the great aspects of the Hulk and doesn't get bogged down with trying to make this into an Academy Award nominee. I actually believe that in a movie like this, having very little plot is much better than trying to string together a crappy plot out of thin air, something plenty of superhero movies try to do.

That said, none of these actors are winning awards for their roles here. Liv Tyler's Betty Ross made me feel like Hulk was about to pick her up and climb the Empire State Building. William Hurt's Thunderbolt Ross could not deliver his lines without seeming like he was about to twirl his mustache at the end of each scene. And Tim Roth's Emil Blonsky was a little bit boring for a soldier supreme.

There was nothing much wrong with Norton's Banner... there just wasn't too much for him to do other than run from soldiers and look scared. He gets one point where he could have really shined toward the end of the movie, but I don't know, I really wasn't too convinced. Maybe it's just because it was a predictable part. I don't know.

Hell, the biggest star of the movie was actually Robert Downey, Jr. It's true. When he walked on to the screen, as soon as the man people now recognize as Tony Stark came into focus, people in the theater cheered. Apparently, "Iron Man" was kind of popular. Who knew?

As long as you enter "The Incredible Hulk" knowing you're going to see action take centerstage and be ready to laugh at plenty cheesy and self-aware moments (see Stan Lee's cameo and the famous "You wouldn't like me..." line), you are going to absolutely love this movie.

This isn't a great movie. It's not even the best superhero movie. But for the Hulk, it's a Smash.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"The Incredible Hulk" today

As of this moment, I am 16 hours away from sitting down in a Long Island theater with the girlfriend to watch "The Incredible Hulk."

However, at the current moment I find myself watching "Keeping the Faith" on Encore. Yes, I can admit to stopping on movies like this from time to time. In case you haven't seen the movie, Edward Norton plays a gay priest.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, I am all for somebody making one or both of those life choices. I'm pointing that out because Right now I am watching Bruce Banner as a gay priest. 16 hours from now, this guy is going to be the Green Goliath ... but for now, he's a blond priest.

Come to think of it, I can pop in a DVD right now and watch Norton as a purple rhino named "Smoochy."

I don't really have a punchline here, I just find it kind of funny. I'll have a "Hulk" review up at some point VERY LATE Friday night.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Beer Pong" game created by morons, protested by morons

Apparently the picket posse heard about upcoming WiiWare game "Frat Party Games — Beer Pong" and they're not pleased. Check out THIS LINK for the story.

And, if you ask me, both sides of this argument are just failing to use their noggins, so I'm going to set them straight right now:

JV Games: Were you just asking for this sort of publicity? You must have been with a game title that includes the words "Frat" and "Beer." Come on, guys, did you need to make the binge-drinking aspects of this game so prevalent? You know, a Wii party game (titled "Party Games") came out not too long ago that features Beer Pong — and everybody knew it was Beer Pong — but they called it "Ping Cup" instead and ended up having gameplay footage on with no complaints. Hell, the only complaint was from me when I saw the gameplay stunk so bad.

Protesters: Do you really think kids between the ages of 13-21 need any downloadable video game to make them want to drink beer? There are 20 different places on TV or magazines that can teach kids what Beer Pong is, and countless other places that will entice kids to drink. It's unavoidable nowadays, so the only thing parents should be doing about this game is what they should always be doing — talking to their kids about the dangers of alcohol so that when they inevitably get their grubby little mitts on it, they are smart about it.

Both of you badly need a dunce cap and a time out.

On a related note, I know somebody who didn't drink but needed to play Beer Pong anyway, so she did so with water. She was the only person who vomited at that party.

'Ninja Warrior' game on

If I didn't blog about this right now I wouldn't be able to justify the last 25 minutes I spent at my desk...

Visit THIS LINK to the G4Tv Web site for their flash game based on their "Ninja Warrior" show.

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you know I'm a big "Ninja Warrior" fan, but I only today got the chance to go online and try out the new game, which plays great and feels like an old school side-scrolling 8-bit title.

Just don't feel bad when it takes you a few tries even to just make it to the middle of the first stage. This game tests your coordination navigating the keyboard and mouse. Someday, though, someday I will have total victory.

Captain America NOT IN 'Hulk'

They giveth and they taketh away...

Apparently, according to this Newsarama LINK, the scene featuring Captain America in "The Incredible Hulk", which opens on Friday, was cut from the movie.

Leterrier confirmed that Cap has been removed from the final cut of the film. According to the director, Bruce Banner heads to the Arctic Circle in a Frankenstein-esque trek to kill himself. Footage of “Bruce of the North” has indeed been seen in the trailers for the film. The segment of the film was, according to Leterrier, very dark, and thus, to make the film more suited for younger audiences (Hulk is rated PG-13), it was cut. Thing is, that portion of the film contained the Captain America sequence.

On a higher note, though, that description of the scene means my prediction of where Cap would show up was kind of right.

Leterrier said at some point this week you will be able to find the scene on the Internet. God Bless the World Wide Web!

Buy Pile Report

This time last night I was lamenting the lack of a top-tier title in this week's new comic books.

As it turned out, there were more than a couple middle-tier titles with top-tier content this week.

And first off, congratulations are in order. With the release of Salvation Run #7 this week, we have our first and only complete and completely unharmed "Countdown" tie-in mini-series. And, the finale, while flawed, had a couple of memorable moments we can only hope carry over into the next few years of DC comics.

Now, I know that you're thinking you know all you need to know of this story's ending already, since the book's tardiness spoiled the fact that most of the villains make it back alive. But, you don't know under what jaw-dropping circumstances that return happens. A good portion of the book is spent with the villains in an all-out brawl with the parademons, a fight that I really wish artist Sean Chen could have pulled off better. While the narration of Captain Cold talks of these bad guys doing every dirty gruesome thing they have to in order to survive this war, the art does not do the parademons -- a notoriously mindlessly vicious animal of an adversary -- justice here. As a result, the fight looks pretty lame.

And yes, Lex's machine works, he creates a portal back home... but the way this machine is powered will make your jaw drop, especially when you realize he and Gorilla Grodd had been planning for the machine to work this way the entire time. What results is a feeling that the villains are returning to Earth a whole lot more serious and cut-throat than they ever have been before -- and that could make for some GREAT comics in the coming years.

Speaking of dangerous villains, Action Comics #866 began the arc called "Brainiac," which will completely revamp the character. And if you haven't jumped on board with Geoff Johns' "Action" yet, now is the time. Most of the issue is spent further re-establishing what kind of a character Clark is, showing him interacting with several members of the Daily Planet staff (and Gary Frank's art here is a spot-on Christopher Reeve recreation), before he comes face to face with a Brainiac robot toward the end of the issue.

Yes, there isn't too much action (no pun intended) here, but the character moments are fantastic and the feeling you're left with as the issue ends is that Brainiac is not going to waste any time here sending in the big guns to fight the Man of Steel. Issue #877 cannot come fast enough for me.

I also give high honors to Johns' and Jeff Katz's Booster Gold #10, an issue that pays off nearly every piece of story the writers have been slowly building to for the past six months. Not only do Booster and the Justice League square off against the Time Stealers, but we learn why Booster's Dad has suddenly become an arch-villain and we even get to see Skeets (the unsung all-star of any Booster Gold story) kick some rear. And despite all that story going on, there's still room for a good deal of organic plot explanations (like, for instance, when each of these villains were plucked from) and the normal humor we've come to expect from this title (like Daniel Carter punching out Brainiac 5 one second, and getting distracted wondering why his skin is green the next).

This second to last issue for Johns and Katz also resolves the fate of Ted Kord... at least it seems like it resolves it. I'm not going to go into details here, but I'll simply say the scenes are very well done.

There's one last DC book I wanted to make note of: Green Lantern Corps. #25. I've been loving the stories in this book since "Sinestro Corps. War." I think the writing has been holding its own with Johns' main GL title. However, artist Patrick Gleason has really been killing the book for me. For so much alien-world carnage going on in this book, Gleason is really not at his best when drawing big, hectic fight scenes. His work just isn't clean and detailed enough. It all just looks like a muddled mess, and as a result, an already sort of hookey story (a talking "Mother" Black Mercy?) gets pushed over the edge into ridiculousness. The art just couldn't sell the serious situations the Ring Slingers faced here.

Moving on... I only bought one Marvel title this week, but I think I made the right choice. Secret Invasion: Who do you Trust? #1 provided me with a grand-sweeping cross-section of the Skrull situation that has at times been missing from the main "Secret Invasion" book. We first saw Captain Marvel's thought processes leading up to his attack on the Thunderbolts (he wasn't mind-controlled after all!), we watch a fun Beast/Wonder Man fight in which neither thinks the either is who they say they are, we see Marvel Boy's plans to take action against the Skrulls (although I really hope the Kree don't get too involved), and two more stories that really made the book for me:

In a story featuring Agent Brand floating through space after the Skrull attack on SWORD's home base, Brand looks back on her previous interactions with the Skrulls and pieces things together in her head -- which, of course, makes her royal pig-headedness pretty pissed off. I really enjoyed the fact that they explained here a little of what "He Loves You" means. I know in the main Invasion book Bendis is hopefully going to clarify this, but just to learn about the Skrull religion here really made the story for me because it felt relevant.

The same with the last story which I also enjoyed, as the Agents of Atlas took on a horde of Skrulls and won. Aside from simply being a great bit of action, by the end of the book the Agents make a discovery/proclamation which I think is VERY important to fully understanding the invasion -- the Skrulls honest to God think what they are doing is for the best of humanity. There's no evil in their hearts (which, begs the parallel to the current terrorist threat America feels, if that wasn't evident already). Again, this book works because several of the stories make you feel like your "Secret Invasion" experience is better for having read it -- something Marvel tie-ins often lack -- so do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

EA sued by two NFL gamers over monopoly

Everyone knows EA Sports owns the exclusive rights to NFL material, right? Well two gamers are looking to sue for that to end.

Click THIS LINK to read the Gamespot story on two guys, one from California and one from D.C., who want EA's exclusivity erased in order to give us better, cheaper games. That's right, two guys. Not a company. Not an activist group. Not even a room full of guys who got drunk one night while playing "NFL 2K5" and decided they needed to do something to get a "2K9" made.

Check out this quote lifted from the story:

The class-action complaint focuses on Electronic Arts' actions since 2004, when Take-Two Interactive's NFL 2K5 was released at a $19.99 price point and sold more than 2.9 million copies in the US, according to NPD figures. Take-Two's previous football game, ESPN NFL Football, sold fewer than 450,000 copies in the US. Meanwhile, EA dropped the price of its Madden 2005 from $49.95 to $29.95 in response.

"This vigorous competition benefited consumers," according to the suit. "Electronic Arts could have continued to compete by offering a lower price and/or a higher quality product. Instead, Electronic Arts quickly entered into a series of exclusive agreements with the only viable sports football associations in the United States: the National Football League, the Arena Football League, and NCAA Football."

Now, Monopoly issues aside ... that's all just false. I remember that year. I remember the $19.99 price point for "2K5." I also remember EA sticking to their $49.99 price for "Madden" for months and the game still out-selling "2K5." The price on "Madden" didn't drop until the normal $20 price cut EA makes on most of its games months into the game's life. For these two knuckleheads to focus on the price of the games is the entirely wrong route.

And, really... do these two guys really have so little to do other than sit around looking at their video game collection saying "You know, I really should be saving $20 bucks on my yearly football game... I think I'll sue." Come on, people!

Burger King helped Iron Man say 'no' to drugs

I just spotted THIS LINK on the G4TV Web site and I had to share it.

Remember all that Burger King product placement in "Iron Man?" Tony Stark only wanted two things when he got back to civilization — a press conference and a Burker King Cheeseburger. Hell, he ate two.

Well, apparently that wasn't JUST product placement. It probably was in part, since BK had the "Iron Man" tie-in promotions and all, but, apparently Robert Downey, Jr. was the one that wanted Burger King in the movie, to thank the franchise for helping him kick his drug addiction.

Downey claims he had a burger so horrendously bad at a Burger King that he decided he needed to kick the dope for good. No, I don't know how that ties in together either, but gift horses, you know?

So the next time you're walking down a street, and on the left of the street is a Burger King and on the right is a drug dealer, be like Iron Man and turn left, kids!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This week's comic book expectations

OK, after weeks of big titles like "Secret Invasion" and "Final Crisis," not to mention long-awaited debuts like "Trinity's" last week, this week is more low-key. That doesn't mean there's nothing worth looking for, though.

Headlining the week is Action Comics #866. Geoff Johns has really made this book worth reading and exciting again in the past 8 months or so, and this month's offering begins a storyline many of us have been waiting for -- the Brainiac story. Johns has a penchant for re-imagining has-been villains, so I'm eager to see what he has planned for Mr. Robot-Krypton-Hater.

Granted, not all of Johns' work has been perfect -- I'm still not thrilled about how he changed Hal Jordan's Parallax story -- but more times than not, his changes are made in the interest of fantastic stories to come. If you need an example, just look at the "Sinestro Corps. War." And, given how much pull Johns has in the DC Universe lately, don't be surprised if this new take on Brainiac someday turns into major trouble for the DCU as a whole, not just Metropolis.

But that's not all from Johns this week. He also teams up with Jeff Katz on Booster Gold #10. Now, I'm not going to go on and on about this being the best series not enough people are reading like I normally do. After all, this is the third-to-last issue for the current creative team, and who needs to jump on board with a bandwagon that may be coming to an end if the next creative team isn't up to snuff?

However, for those of us smart enough to read this series, it's been consistently fun. And, if you haven't been reading this series, hopefully this preview will entice you to pick it up in trade form: Booster and the ole' JLI was just about to faceoff with the full force of the "Time Stealers" when last issue ended, so this story should be one big fun slugfest. Also, you can kind of get the feeling that Booster and Beetle are coming to the same inevitable conclusion -- that the world might have been better if Ted Kord had died. The question for us, making us readers want to read on, is what sort of curveball is Johns leading up to here?

There's almost too much good DC to go around this week, though. There's also Salvation Run #7, the final issue of the mini-series. Now, we know how the last pages of this story are going to go: The villains will find their way home and Jo'nn Jo'nzz isn't going to make it home safely... that doesn't change the fact that it turns out this is the ONLY "Countdown"-related mini-series that has ended up mattering AT ALL. Hell, it's the only one that's not already getting ret-conned. And I, for one, am curious to see it all play out.

And don't forget about Green Lantern Corps. #25, either. When last we saw our group of ring-slingers, they were trapped by the mother of all black mercys, and Mongol is still very much on the loose. As far as I am concerned, this book has become just as relevant to the DCU as the main "Green Lantern" title.

Marvel doesn't have quite as much worth picking up this week, but there is a solid Skrull offering in Secret Invasion: Who do you Trust? The one-shot will skip around to several loose plot strings that began in "Secret Invasion #1," Including Captain Marvel's story, a look at more fights in the Savage Land, and a story of how Agent Brand survived her fall.

Of all the pain Marvel has caused by starting stories in their first issue of the main book and then forcing you to buy tie-ins, this one is the most cost effective and condensed, so it's not a bad choice if you're looking to get more of the Skrull story. Personally, I find myself now interested in Brand's story, and I think it's simply because I'm a huge Hank McCoy fan and the pair are now an item.

Skaar: Son of the Hulk #1 hits stands on Wednesday as well. Back when "World War Hulk" was wrapping up, I was actually really jazzed about this title. It was the one -- the only one -- that jumped out at me as being an interesting read, and "Planet Hulk" was so strong. But, a long time has passed since then. I don't even remember when "WWH" finished. And, other than getting ready to buy my ticket to "The Incredible Hulk" movie, I haven't really thought of the Green Scar since then. "Skaar" could have been a big seller for Marvel. Now, it has to work extra hard to win any sort of an audience.

Finally from Marvel, the X-Force: Ain't no Dog #1 one-shot. Now, I'm a reader of "X-Force." I think it's had an interesting dynamic and the villains involved have me interested. I like how detatched X-23 has become (from a literary appreciation standpoint), and how driven but conflicted Warpath is. From the solicitation for this one-shot, though, none of that will be included here.

Instead, we, apparently, get a solo Wolverine story. Like we don't get enough of those. Also, check out this solicitation:

Tonight, Wolverine flies solo—dressed in black and operating off the grid. And when the night is through, there will be mountains of corpses, and no one to answer to. What could be better?

How 1990's fanboy can you get?

Wednesday's comic release list

HERE'S THE LINK to your new comic book release list for the week. It's not the most exciting list, but there's a little Skrull action and a lot of good solo books from DC, so it'll do.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Morrison blames DC for 'Final Crisis' mistakes; tells us to forget the last year

Check out THIS LINK for Grant Morrison's tell-all interview (and I don't mean spoilers) with Newsarama, regarding "Final Crisis #1."

If you scroll down about a quarter of the way, Morrison is asked, in several different varying questions, all about the continuity errors that have been so off-putting about the first issue of Morrison's new epic.

I would quote parts of Morrison's responses here, but there were just too many good ones to quote. If you were bothered by "Final Crisis #1," go read ALL of his comments. Because, as the interview goes on, it really seems like Morrison's true feelings come out, and he is NOT HAPPY about any of this.

Apparently, he had written the first issue of this series, and broken down the other seven, long before "Countdown" or "Death of the New Gods" was conceived, so he clearly BLAMES DC EDITORIAL for every error in the book.

And, he basically tells all of us readers that he didn't give a damn about any DC continuity that was created in the past year, he is just writing the story he wanted to write.

So, if you read "Countdown" or "DotNG" apparently you not only wasted BUCKETS OF CASH, but you also were reading stories that are just going to confuse you the rest of the way, because in Grant's world they don't exist. Meaning, DC editorial screwed up twice here -- 1) Not properly leading into "Final Crisis #1," when they had the script to that issue in hand, 2) Not properly editing Morrison's work after he went and said "Screw You" to the last year of stories.

I know you're mad about this. I am too. But, we have two options here. Either we can stop buying DC books all together and tell DC editorial what we think of them with our wallets ... or we can just forget those stories as best as we can, accept that the New Gods are not actually dead yet, and just try and enjoy stubborn Morrison's tale. I'll choose the latter.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

This week's video game releases

Your list of video game releases is available at THIS LINK ... but is anyone really going to be playing anything other than "Metal Gear" this week?

Captain America in the 'Hulk' movie

When "The Incredible Hulk" opens for business in theaters on Friday, you may just be seeing an unexpected familiar face. In addition to Bruce Banner (Edward Norton), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the previously-announced Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), apparently the Star-Spangled Avenger is making an appearance.

Follow THIS LINK for the story.

Here's the thing, though. Nobody has heard of Marvel hiring anyone to play the role of Captain America yet, and they certainly didn't hire an actor a year ago when "Hulk" was filming, long before the success of "Iron Man" or the announcement of the "First Avenger: Captain America" movie. So, we're likely not REALLY going to see Steve Rogers here.

Maybe by saying "Captain America himself makes a brief appearance" they actually mean we'll see a big guy that may be Cap from behind, or in the distance. Maybe we're going to see some very grainy old news-reel footage of an image that's supposedly Captain America fighting. Maybe we're just on a wild goose chase, and by saying we'll see Captain America what they really mean is we'll see the Super Soldier serum which led to Captain America.

My prediction? After the credits, we'll see Fury, Stark and Banner out on a boat in the arctic. The camera will tilt down into the water below where they'll see Someone in the Ice...

Any way you slice it, though, this news just makes the slate of upcoming Marvel movies — all tied-in with each other — that much more exciting.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Is Tony Stark a Skrull?

The question on every Marvel fan's mind since "Secret Invasion #3" came out on Wednesday is whether or not Tony Stark has been a Skrull all along.

And, to Brian Bendis' credit, he wrote a fantastic scene fueling the speculation. So, what is the answer? Let's take a look.

Evidence against Stark:
- The Skrull Queen told him so last issue.
- In the second issue of "Secret Invasion," Stark says the way he will save himself is by doing the one thing a Skrull can't emulate — using his mind. Well, in issue #3, he was struggling to re-build his armor with that mind.
- Tony Stark has made some VERY questionable choices in the past couple of years, mainly during the "Civil War" saga, and (like Queen Skrull said) has somehow positioned himself at the center of the Marvel Universe.
- Spider-Woman is a Skrull, even though Bendis spoke volumes about how heroic a character she is and how much he loves her. Why is this important you ask? Because he has also flat-out said the Tony is no Skrull. Can he be trusted now?

The Evidence supporting Stark's humanity:
- Mark Millar and Marvel swore up and down that Tony Stark was by no means villainous during "Civil War," in their opinions.
- If Tony is a Skrull, why would Jarvis be needed as a Skrull?
- Bendis said Tony would not be revealed as a Skrull ... for all that's worth.

It looks pretty damning for Tony, eh? Well, here's the kicker folks — Iron man is not a singular character anymore. He's a franchise. He has two ongoing monthly books right now, three other mini-series, and a movie doing darned fine sales at the box office. For as much as I love a good reveal in the comic book world, I cannot see Marvel endangering their property by revealing all these Iron Man stories have not been the real Tony at all. So, Game, Set, Match, Tony is going to be Human, despite Bendis' best efforts to fool us.

The thing is, though, the more I think about it, the more I want Tony to be a Skrull. I know, I know, I was at first in the pool of angry fans who, when first hearing about "Secret Invasion," thought this whole Skrull thing was just being put into place to undo evil Tony from "Civil War." I can understand why you all out there would be unhappy about this. But when is the last time comic books have given us a truly dramatic and shocking moment that had been building for some time and turns everything on its ear?

The one time I ever agree with Joe Quesada is when he says a singular issue cannot be judged until you know the whole story. Sure, he was talking about "One More Day" most of the times that he said this, but how great would it be if all this Marvel crap over the last few years ("The Illuminati making poor choices, getting rid of Hulk, starting Civil War, the prison in the Negative Zone), all of it was one massive Tony Stark Skrull storyline? Frankly, I think "Civil War" would be a much stronger story if Tony's insanity had this explanation.

Maybe I'm just too big a fan of slow-roasted comic book stories, but I think Tony Stark turning out to be a Skrull would be one of the greatest moments in comic book history. Too bad it won't happen.

Buy Pile Report

I have to say flat out, I owe Brian Bendis an apology. Not for my overall distaste for most of what he's ever done, but for my skepticism toward his current epic.

Secret Invasion #3 is damned good. Not only is it damned good, but it answers all those, like me, who had certain criticisms of issue #2. Where the second installment stayed squarely in the Savage Land, making Bendis' storytelling in the midst of an enormous invasion seem extremely short-sighted, this third issue jumps from venue to venue with a pace that would have seemed frenetic if not for concise and sharp writing. And while this issue improves upon all of the second issue's shortcomings, it manages to keep adding layers to the intrigue this story presents.

The thing I always gave Bendis credit for here is the ability to make the reader feel unsure of themselves at all times. He proved successful in this issue during a scene involving Yellow Jacket giving orders to the members of the Initiative. While we already knew Yellow Jacket was a skrull from issue #1, even the reader could not be sure in this third issue whether the Yellow Jacket we see here is the skrull YJ with bad intentions or the real YJ with genuine intentions. Not to spoil anything here, either, but Bendis keeps the reader even more off balance in this third issue, when Tony Stark is told flat out that he is a skrull operative. Is he? Isn't he? I have my suspicions.... but I'll save that for a longer post in the very near future. For now, all that needs to be said is Bravo, Bendis.

This issue's story was a broad stroke that was desperately necessary in the grand scheme of things in order to keep the reader thinking big-picture, and Bendis delivered.

Moving on, let's stay in the Marvel Universe, where I picked up a pair of X-Men titles this week. The first was very strong, Cable #4. And, if you're not reading "Cable," you're missing out. If you're an X-Fan and you're not reading "Cable," you're insane. This is good future-setting cat-and-mouse action, featuring a very vulnerable feeling Cable, protecting the little squirt he believes with all his heart to be the savior of his people, getting chased by a truly chilling Bishop, who believes that little squirt to be the anti-christ.

The strength of this issue in particular, though, was the appearance of old-man Cannonball. Not only does Sam provide us readers with a Cliff's Notes version of the last 50 years, but he then does his darnedest to stop Bishop. You can guess how that showdown turned out, but suffice it to say that Bishop's decent is continuing. And, that may be what I like best out of this story -- Bishop is becoming a Grade-A X-Men Villain, something we seem to be lacking lately. Bishop truly believes he's acting in the world's best interest... he should form a support group with Magneto.

Unfortunately, the second X-Book of my week was just about as bad as it gets. Young X-Men #3 is gaining speed driving down that road that leads to cancellation. If you read the first two issues, you know that Cyclops, for some reason, gathered a group of young mutants, most former students, for the mission of tracking down and killing the former New Mutants, who have become the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Yes, it was as dumb to read as it was for you to read that last recap sentence. The only saving grace of the books were the clear signs pointing toward Cyclops not actually being who he claimed to be.

Well, in this issue, we see Cyclops and Donald Pierce (this arc's big baddie) in two different places at once, so we know Pierce is not posing as Scott Summers. We also saw Sam Guthrie and Roberto D'Acosta talking about how they shouldn't be doing what they're doing so the X-Men are coming after them. We also heard Cyclops give a young mutant a speech that boiled down to "I used to be afraid to kill too. Get over it already."

These first three issues of this series have been, without a doubt, the three worst issues to start an ongoing series I have ever had the misfortune to read. If all of this dreck doesn't make sense by the end of the story arc, this book should be canceled and Marc Guggenheim should be sent to the stockades.

Hell, after reading "Young X-Men," I thought I would be in a bad mood for the rest of the night... until I read Geoff Johns' Justice Society of America #16 and peace returned to the land. Johns' writing here is as sharp as ever, beginning this tale of the enormous God-like Gog from the Third World walking the Earth.

Johns has been promoting for months that Gog's presence would splinter the JSA, and here we start to see why. Gog is nothing but friendly to all he meets here, curing the disease of an African village and explaining that the Gog that was running around killing people was insane and not doing his bidding. And already we saw several characters believe him much more than the others.

Particularly strong here is Damage's side of the story. Predictably a loudmouth skeptic for most of the book, something happens toward the end that even silences him (though I will NOT spoil that!). All in all, Johns suddenly has this book, which at one point felt too bogged down by Kingdom Come to move, returned to a state of wonder. I can't even guess where he's headed with the story or how it can be resolved, but I sure can't wait for a month to pass.

Finally this week, a debut: Trinity #1. Did you give it a try? If you did, you were likely not disappointed. As advertised, the book was split into two halves, with Kurt Busiek telling the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman side in the first half and Fabian Nicieza telling a backup tale in the back. As you may have guessed, the front half was much better than the back half.

Busiek opens the story with Bruce, Clark and Diana meeting in public, and immediately takes the time to establish their individual personalities -- personalities which felt more genuine than simply trying to fit the characters into their stereotypical expectations. And, not only does Busiek have a handle on the characters, he immediately presents the readers with a circumstance for them all to meet -- one dire enough to deserve a big sweeping book like this. While the idea of three characters having similar ominous dreams is nothing new, it doesn't change the fact that when done right, it can set up a story very nicely.

The back end was, actually, very closely related to the front end, something I was not exactly ready for. Basically, Nicieza introduces us to a couple of B-list villains, and the idea that they are looking to steal the "power" of these dreams the Trinity is sharing in order to use for themselves. I don't know how dreams have power, but whatever. The problem here was, after reading half a comic book's worth of familiar characters with a lot of energy, the backup story has unfamiliar characters and no energy. That said, there is certainly potential for their side of the story to be an interesting one, given that we know at some point both halves of the story are going to intersect.

All in all, "Trinity" may be worth getting on board for. If for nothing else, aren't weekly comics just fun?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Download Widget for checking ESRB ratings


Click THIS LINK to go to Senator Stephen M. Saland's Web site, where you can download a Widget for checking the ESRB Rating of any video game. You can also click on THIS LINK and go directly to the place you download it on the ESRB site.

That's right, parents, now you have no excuse for not knowing what you are buying your kids, because with this widget that you can just have on your computer one click away, you can check the ratings.

It's ideas like this one, working with the ratings systems already in place, that is the right way to go to solve the "violent video games" problem. We don't need more government legislation, just more people in charge supporting ideas like this.

'Ghostbusters' game Stay-Puft sized

Check out THIS LINK, an interview with Ernie Hudson (you know, the Ghostbuster for hire), talking about the upcoming "Ghostbusters" game.

The script is 480 pages (where did they find a staple big enough to hold it together?) and written by Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. The original quartet also provided the voices for the game, which is slated for an October release.

Follow THIS LINK to the game's site for further instructions on why not to cross the streams.

Personally, I just hope we get more of Vigo the Conquerer in this game. Check that, I just hope we get more of Vigo's little lackey. "Is Vigo! You are like Flies to Him!"

The New Newsarama

I don't know if all of you saw this yet, but Newsarama's long-talked about new page design is live and worth taking a look at.


Don't be scared, sometimes change is good. Except when it isn't.

This week's comic book expectations

The question on everyone's minds this week -- at least the minds of comic retailers -- is how big of a hit Trinity #1 will be? All we really know about DC's new weekly series is that it will be a 52-issue self-contained tale starring Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. That's it. Well, that and the creative team of Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley.

So how many people will pick this first issue up? Just how good could it be? The difference here, as opposed to DC's first two weekly series, is, "52" and "Countdown" were both pertinent to the DC Universe as a whole. ... at least, "Countdown" was supposed to be pertinent. I mean, it's stories were literally retconned in the same week it came out at one point... but I digress. My point is, it will be interesting to see how many people are willing to shell out for a weekly comic that isn't a "must-read" sort of thing. And, can the story be worth it? We'll start to find out Wednesday.

On a more normal note, Justice Society of America #16 is also out on Wednesday, the second JSA offering in three weeks. This issue marks the beginning of a new story arc... even if the last story arc is still kinda going on. When last we left our heroes, they had cornered Gog who was suddenly disintegrated by... Gog?!? Yes, Gog. The real Gog. Apparently now, as the cover to this issue suggests, there is an enormous God-like Gog walking around.

Yes, it's kind of weird. On the upside, this is a definite step away from the whole Kingdom Come-ness ... even if we know from solicitations that this is all going to lead to a new Magog being born. For now, I'm interested to see what Geoff Johns plans on doing with this deity.

Of the three Batman titles coming out this week, the most interesting has to be the Robin/Spoiler Special, which promises to explain the whole sorted history surrounding Tim Drake's little friend. Detective Comics #845 is the last issue for the series before the tidal wave that is "Batman R.I.P." takes the series over for a while. Also, don't forget about Nightwing #145, which has just been super since Peter Tomasi took over.

Lastly from DC, I know nothing about what's going on in this series, but check out the solicitation for Supergirl #30:

Supergirl crossed a line no hero should, promising a dying boy she'd cure his cancer. Now she's prepared to break the universe's rules of life and death and betray the trust of two heroes in service of her impossible quest. Regardless of the outcome, there will be major consequences for the Teen of Steel!

Seriously? Supergirl has the power to do all that? I mean, if blondie could cure cancer, why the hell hasn't she done it already?!?

Marvel has a couple of big issues out itself, leading with Secret Invasion #3, a series which has been kept very nicely on time so far. Brian Bendis promises we'll be going someplace other than the Savage Land in this issue, after issue #2 was entirely confined in the Antarctic. That's not to say there's nothing interesting going on in the Savage Land, what with Ronin thinking Mockingbird is who she says she is and all of the New Avengers fighting with the old Avengers -- but in order for this big event book to work, we need to be given a bigger cross section of what's going on in the outside world.

Personally, I've always thought this Skrull Invasion is the best story idea Marvel has had in 15 years -- it's the only reason why I have bought any bit of it given how "Civil War" burned me -- but if all Bendis is going to do is show his own Avengers characters and say "Read the crossovers for the rest of the story," then he might as well have told this story within his own book. This should be a fantastic story, and I'm just not seeing it yet. I know, we're only two issues in, I'm being a bit harsh, but Bendis and Marvel are on a VERY short leash with me.

Invincible Iron Man #2 also drops this week, a series that actually had a very strong first issue despite the fact that I sincerely question why it exists. Honestly, Tony Stark isn't in enough books yet? And really, is this supposed to be a coincidence that the first story arc concerns the son of the Iron Man movie's villain? Really? I'm throwing this book in the "Amazing Spider-Man" pile of books I refuse to read. I fight on the side of good.

I'm very excited for Cable #4, after last month's big shocker final page of Cannonball walking through the door. Really, I'm a big fan of many of the story elements began last month, including the character of Sophie, who seems to be the perfect li'l lady for a John Wayne like Cable to settle down and raise a kid with. And, after re-reading #3 a few minutes ago, I've decided that Bishop has really crossed a line he can't come back from. I mean, killing men and justifying it by claiming they will never exist? Badass, my friends.

Finally, Ultimate Origins #1 debuts this week, written by our friend Brian Bendis. Apparently, everything in the Ultimate Universe is "All Connected." I want to know something -- what's the point of having a big mini-series revealing the origin of all these things when NOBODY HAS EVER asked what the origins are? It's the Ultimate Universe, plain and simple. We were given solid origins in the first issues of every series, we don't need anymore. Why would a whole Universe be connected, anyway? I'm sorry, this just seems like the most self-serving project I can imagine. It's Bendis just trying to add deeper meaning to his own work, by telling us there's so much we should be asking questions about. Nobody cares, Bendis.

Oh well, I think I might need anger management. Or, maybe I just need Bendis to go away. Anyway, enjoy the week.

Wednesday's comic release list

Not the most exciting list, but the weekly list none the less. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad week... it's just not last week. Last week REALLY Spoiled me.

to the list.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

To 'Trinity' or not to 'Trinity'?

It's time to make your choice.

Are you on board with DC for their third weekly series in as many years? "Trinity" kicks off on Wednesday, the weekly tale penned by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Mark Bagley featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Well, the first two-thirds are by those two, and the last third is a relating on-going tale featuring lesser characters.

All told, to read all 52 issues (which DC insures us will be a self-contained story) will cost $156 this year. So, deciding to pick this up this week or not is a big choice, folks.

To help you out, has a five-page preview up at THIS LINK and a glowing non-spoiler review of the first issue at THIS LINK.

Cream sings about 'Final Crisis'

So, when I'm driving home from the GF's house on Long Island late at night, my mind tends to wander to strange things. Some of these turn out to be good ideas, while others I just end up making an enormous headache for myself (see the Red Fox Tales series of videos for example).

Well, driving home tonight with the CD player on random, one song caught my attention as reminding me of DC's "Final Crisis." Here are the lyric's to Cream's classic "Deserted Cities of the Heart." You can judge for yourself, but as far as I'm concerned, Clapton's singing about Darkseid here.

Upon this street where time has died.
The golden treat you never tried.
In times of old, in days gone by.
If I could catch your dancing eye.

It was on the way,
On the road to dreams, yeah.
Now my heart's drowned in no love streams, yeah.

The street is cold, its trees are gone.
The story's told the dark has won.
Once we set sail to catch a star.
We had to fail, it was too far.

It was on the way,
On the road to dreams, yeah.
Now my heart's drowned in no love streams, yeah.

I felt the wind shout like a drum.
You said, "My friend, love's end has come."
It couldn't last, had to stop.
You drained it all to the last drop.

It was on the way,
On the road to dreams, yeah.
Now my heart's drowned in no love streams, yeah.

Now my heart's drowned in no love streams, yeah.

On this dark street the sun is black.
The winter life is coming back.
On this dark street it's cold inside.
There's no retreat from time that's died.

It was on the way,
On the road to dreams.
Now my heart's drowned in no love streams, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Now my heart's drowned in no love streams, yeah.
Now my heart's drowned in no love.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

This week's video game releases

HERE'S THE LINK to this week's new video games.

And, it's a decent week of stuff too, between "Ninja Gaiden II" and the Indiana Jones Lego adventure, you all should be more than occupied enough to shut your traps. That's right, I said it, you can get on my nerves sometimes.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. Playing Mario Kart with all those dictators has put me into a mood.

Dictators playing Mario Kart

Follow THIS LINK to one of the funniest things ever to appear on

Apparently the good people at G4 made Miis of historical dictators and took them on Mario Kart Online to see if they could get away with it. If there was a God he would have let me randomly be in the Online game that G4 played to get the screen shots for this.

I just want to know, where's my boy Mao Zedong? No love for the Chairman? Frank Sinatra would be so disappointed. You know that's what he was named after. I'm pretty sure.