Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This week's comic expectations

It's a different week, but the same story. We're in for another slow week. My attention span is unhappy, but my wallet is. Ah, the circle of life. Luckily with a good deal of my free time this week already ear-marked with video games to review, I can deal with another slow week.

But I digress. HERE'S THE LINK to the release list and you can see for yourself just as slow as we're talking. The one unique part of this week, though, is that, unlike last week in which DC made it slow with a lack of "Final Crisis" titles, this week its Marvel lacking in "Secret Invasion" books. Don't get me wrong, "Final Crisis" is still nowhere to be seen, but there is more than enough to like out of DC this week to make up for it.

It obviously all begins with Batman #680, the 5th and -- dare I geekily say -- penultimate issue of "Batman R.I.P." When last we left Bruce in all his Purple and Yellow glory, he was following the neon flashing signs to Arkham Asylum, where the Black Glove has put the Joker in a position to get the drop on our Caped Crusader. We've also been given clue after clue that the man behind Batman's current troubles is none other than Thomas Wayne, who had faked his own death... meaning we can expect Grant Morrison to turn that on its ear before all is said and done. Other than that, I still have very little clue as to where this story is going, and as the issues go by and I re-read it all, I'm enjoying it more and more.

Speaking of "R.I.P.," Dick Grayson's tie-in story continues this week in Nightwing #149, with the former Robin taking on a good deal of Batman's rogues gallery. It should be fairly insignificant, but could be entertaining nonetheless.

Another big title out of DC is Justice League of America #25, a story I'm pumped up for if only because it means that poorly executed Amazo/JLA showdown is all done. Honestly, Dwayne McDuffie's tenure on the title has been as uneven as a see-saw, which means maybe this next arc, featuring Vixen and Buddy Blank going after their unknown agitator could be pretty darned good. However, the one thing McDuffie has done very well is keep two pots on the stove at all times, so I am also curious to see what new idea he comes up with. So far we've seen very little of his actual ideas, as he's been busy tying up the many loose ends left by Brad Meltzer's great run on the book, so I am eager for McDuffie's own work.

Speaking of Vixen, if you are interested, the Vixen mini-series debuts this week with Vixen: Return of the Lion #1.

Believe it or not, you also may want to pickup Supergirl #34. Yes, I know, it's been years since Kara Zor-El was relevant. But, with new writer Sterling Gates on the book, who, it seems, has conferred in detail with Geoff Johns over what direction would be best for the Teen of Steel, we may finally get a Supergirl worth reading. Not to mention the fact that this is Gates' only issue before his part in the "New Krypton" arc next month.

From Marvel, as I said, not a lot. While Punisher: War Journal #24 is the only "Secret Invasion" tie-in of the week, a seemingly meaningless story of Punisher doing what he does, the only story of any significance as far as I'm concerned is Cable #7, which will see X-Force take on Bishop. Still, after just focusing an entire special on Bishop's side of the story a few weeks ago, I don't see Wolverine beating Lucas Bishop in this case.

That's about it. Slow week, great for video games.

Heroes Report: One of Them, One of Us

A little love for Poughkeepsie! Watch out all you bank tellers of Po-Town!

Finally, for the first time in who knows how long, I just watched an episode of "Heroes" that didn't feel forced in the least. As I hoped after that -- I'll use the word again -- haphazard first week of randomly setting up plotlines, the writers just took the ball and ran with it here. And while the first half of this episode wasn't exactly the most exciting thing in the world, I still felt like we were moving at a proper pace, which was a nice change from the previous year of episodes.

The only part of this episode that really didn't work, as far as I was concerned, was that bull in the china shop Future Peter, who can't vacate this series fast enough as far as I'm concerned. Everything about him is just goofy, right down to his scar across the front of his face, despite the fact that Peter heals from any wound. While I understand why the writers needed to have Future Peter show up and ruin HRG's plan of having body-trapped Peter save the day, it still came across as Future Peter not having a clue as to what situation he was intruding upon. Apocolyptic future or not, I still cannot believe any version of Peter would want to enable Sylar's "feeding."

Speaking of Sylar, for as contrived an idea this whole "Third Petrelli brother" thing is, I actually buy it coming from this show. Since the first season, we've had the idea of interconectivity jammed down our throats (which, to me, underscores the idea that this is natural evolution). So if everyone needs to be interconnected, Sylar as a Petrelli not only makes sense, but it helps fuel future Sylar/Peter interaction.

That said, I am more inclined to buy the idea that Momma Petrelli is only telling Sylar he's a Petrelli in order to gain control over him.

What I don't buy (and since it won't really come into play yet, I'm not holding it against this episode) is HRG's plan of waiting to find a weakness in Sylar in order to kill him. Mr. Bennett is too darned smart for this. He knows Sylar's powers, he knows Sylar can heal, he knows it's a matter of getting the drop on Sylar, not waiting to find out Gabriel Gray is, in fact, allergic to sunflowers or something. "Ooh, once he breaks out in hives, then I'll make my move!" This falls under the category of "HRG has to do this in order to go along with our haphazard storyline."

Here's what HRG's plan should be:

HRG: Come on, Haitian, let's go into Sylar's room.
Haitian: OK.
Sylar: Hey you two! Get out of my room, or I'll use my 19,000 powers on you.
Haitian: That's why I'm here.
Sylar: Aw, shucks, that was my weakness all along.

Come to think of it, there was one more part of this episode's story that didn't quite work for me, and I only just realized it. Claire's trauma has never been given proper emotional weight. At first I felt like I didn't like that scene with Claire and Biological mother because Claire has never exactly been portrayed as a victim. She paid that rapist QB back with the car accident in season one. She threatened the company in season two... but, the more I think about it, the more I realize the whole incident with Sylar would have been EXTREMELY traumatic for her, akin to any normal high schooler getting raped in her own home. This may have come obviously to some of you, but to me, the show never fully sold it to me. I never really understood that that singular incident could change her so much. I think the writers really missed out on selling that emotional moment.

Oh, and I'm really liking Hiro's storyline right now. While it's far from the most important part of these shows, it's hitting the same goofy tone that made the character work so well in season two. And is there anything more perfect to break up two nerd friends than the affections of a pretty blonde?

OK, I think we're ready for the random thoughts:

1) Matter cannot be created or destroyed. So where was Peter's physical body while he was in Jessie's body? And if the answer is "his body was inside Jessie's, then does Peter have that hyper-sonic voice now? Somebody call Atilan!

2) Tracy's storyline has me VERY intrigued. Thank God this isn't a "yet to be seen twin" sort of story. Instead, could we be looking at very many Ali Larters all over the country?

3) Angela Petrelli is WAY TOO Two-Dimensional! In fact, too many characters have become two-dimensional.

4) Parkman's African Vacation is nice and all, but I miss him interacting with other characters, and I MISS MOLLY!

5) You know who I didn't miss? MAYA AND MOHINDER! Kill 'em off already! Or, better yet, kill Maya and return Mohinder to the genius he used to be!

6) Sylar's scenes from the preview make the next six days very very long.

7) Speaking of the preview, it seems Peter's going to be off on his own trying to stop the future, again. Wouldn't we much rather see him actually working WITH other characters?

8) My favorite part of the episode is when Lyle points out the obvious at the breakfast table "you're going to protect us... with fire?"

9) Apparently I only had nine random thoughts this week.

10) I would have MUCH MUCH MUCH rather seen Elle paired with HRG.

This week's video game releases

So, I'm back approaching 100% after my weekend bout with the flu. I've said it once, I'll say it again, I hate my birthday. Anyway, since I'm near 100%, it's time to catch up on this little beauty of a blog.

So, to start us off, HERE'S THE LINK to the new video game releases for the week. Next on the itinerary is to watch last night's "Heroes" for the Heroes Report, then comes the new comic book releases for the week. Should be a fun afternoon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Saturday's Gaming in the Journal

While this week's Gaming page may be more fantasy sports than Gaming, there is one thing for you players to be interested in. I wrote a column on why "Mega Man 9" should signify a revolution on the gaming world.

So pick up the Gaming page (page 5C in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal Sports section) for all of that, or go to www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/gaming to read them all (they'll be available at the strike of 3 a.m. on Saturday morning).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Buy Pile Report: Superman

I didn't get a chance to post the rest of the Buy Pile Report last night, and frankly there wasn't much more to say past Captain America #42, and you can scroll down for my thoughts on that one. X-Force #7 continues un-earthing past storylines seemingly without writers Kyle and Yost even reading the original storylines, X-Men Legacy #217 continued examining Xavier's motives ad-nauseum, and Trinity #17 was simply one big power-transference scene.

But one horrendous book caught my attention, and for all the wrong reasons. Superman #680 was the worst (non-"Countdown") book I have read since the horrible "X4" crossover a few years ago. And it was so bad not only because it was a singular piece of junk, but it was the finale of a four-part piece of junk story. Honestly, the first four issues of James Robinson's run on the book can be summarized like so: Part 1) Atlas attacks Superman. Part 2) We learn Atlas' historic past. Part 3) Atlas beats Superman.

And now Part 4:

With Superman down, Krypto attacks Atlas for half the issue, before Atlas says the word "Magical" and a light goes off in Supes' head — Deus ex Machina! Of course it must be Magic that's helping Atlas! One of Superman's only two weaknesses! Who would have thunk it?

So, Clark LEAVES his dog fighting Atlas, goes off and finds Zatarra, who enchants Supes with the power of the sun. Superman barrels back to Metropolis, tackles Atlas down into a manhole, and Atlas never comes back up... but Clark does!

So, obviously, something off panel happened to beat Atlas! Not that we need to see the end of a
four-issue fight or anything.

Then, Clark screams at the Metropolis crowd that they're going to love Krypto from now on, in the last of several scenes written horribly out of Superman's voice. The earlier scene with Zatarra made Clark seem more like a 60-year old war veteran talking to a cadet than Superman talking to a character he's met before and worked with before.

I have an enormous amount of respect for James Robinson's writing. But, if any rookie writer wrote these last four issues, he would never get work again.

HRG's new partner

Well, my dream of HRG and Elle partnering is dead. Silly me for thinking the writers might want to go with a storyline that included character development and emotions other than just angry yelling and posturing.

Check out this Episode Three clip off ComicBookResources.com if you want to be spoiled on HRG's new partner.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Buy Pile Report: Captain America

Well, Captain America #42 was not the most brilliant comic ever, like I'm sure many predicted it to be, since it culminated a storyline that dates back years of issues. What it did do, however, is keep me sure this series will be worth reading now that this lengthy masterpiece of a story is over.

In truth, this finale felt just a bit rushed, and mostly it simply wrapped up several loose ends into a candy-coated package. The highlight is probably what Sharon does (though how she shorted that enormous machine I've no idea). She's been a victim for so long, it was nice to see her take on Sin a few issues ago and even nicer to watch her break free here... but I won't spoil exactly what happens.

What I will do is ask the question you will be asking yourself after reading — what exactly was that machine supposed to do? I mean, I have a vague idea, but it was never just laid out on the table. And while I would say this must mean Brubaker means to use it in the future, this finale felt rushed enough that I'm worried he just skimmed over that detail. It will be interesting to see what he says about it in the inevitable post-story interviews he gives with the bigger comic sites.

As I said, this finale was not perfect, but it did leave enough lingering for the future that we all can be sure Brubaker still has plenty of his master plan to unfurl. Enough major players make it out alive that you know they will have something more to say to Bucky soon enough. It seems SHIELD will keep playing a big role in the book too.

And, one of the nicest scenes (and most relaxed scenes) I've read in this book in a while concerns Bucky and Natalia, seemingly just relaxing in their P.J.s watching some night time TV before heading to bed. Call me corny and romantic or whatever sissy name you want, but I was happy to see these two got together so quickly, and most importantly, Bucky, who's been such a conflicted character since his resurrection, be able to just relax with the girl he wants. One of the main parts of his personality has been pushing what he wants most away, from running from Steve to running from the Captain America mantle — it shows a big step for Buck that he accepts both the responsibility of being Cap and the company of Natalia in this issue.

Any way, one thumb up on this issue, but two thumbs up on its promise for the future.

Good news, bad news

I feel like I do this good news, bad news thing a lot on here lately. I apologize, if I could make all my news good news, I probably wouldn't need this stinkin' job anymore. (Just kidding.... that's the ticket)

Anyway, the bad news is, we at the Poughkeepsie Journal still haven't received our copy of "Lego Batman: The Videogame." (Which is why I posted Bruce Wayne over there. He's waiting too. Even Bruce can't get his own game). As you loyal readers know, nobody is more disappointed than me, I am drooling to get my hands on this game. It's nothing personal, there's a backup at the source, you know how it is.

The GOOD NEWS is I have just been assured I will have my copy by Tuesday. Which means, if you all are patient for a week, I will have a full review in Next Week's Gaming page. Better late than never, boys!

The other good news is the good people down at Upstate Comics had all the new books I was looking for today, so the Buy Pile will be posted real soon, if I can get a few minutes free here in the office to read all about Krypto's antics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This week's comic expectations

It's going to be a slow week. Not just slow, I mean slllllooooooooowwwwwwww. I'm talking Refrigerator Perry slow.

Still, on the link to THIS LIST of what's coming out on Wednesday, you will see there are a couple of lights in the darkness.

The brightest light is obviously Captain America #42. And while I'm sure many elements of Ed Brubaker's epic star-spangled story will still carry over into the next storyline, this is the final issue of a story that has built since the very first issue of the series, to a certain extent. Yes, it goes back even farther than historic issue #25 with Steve Rogers' death, the finale should answer some questions on the nature of the dual-personalities of Skull and Luikin, and should round out Bucky's long character arc. And with so many questions still unanswered, from the nefarious master plans to Sharon's fate and the state of the Presidential race, this is a must-read for any Captain America fan.

Black Panther #41 concludes the "Secret Invasion" tie-in arc, a surprisingly good story, which has seen T'Challa tearing loose on the green invaders. With Storm and T'Challa captured, the question of "Will Wakanda win the war" obviously comes into play — and believe it or not, I'm not so sure the Black Panther will win back his land. I only say this because it does seem Marvel is going to conclude "Secret Invasion" with the Skrulls staying (at least in part) on Earth, so is it so crazy to think they might win Wakanda? This may be an important issue in the grand scheme of the war.

Avengers: The Initiative #17 is another appealing "SI" tie-in, with the focus resting squarely on Camp Hammond and the Skrull Queen. God knows I think taking the Skrull Queen out in a tie-in issue would be the worst piece of storytelling yet, but we've all been surprised by the amount of info Bendis has omitted from the main book, so who knows how many more important plot points will be relegated to the tie-ins? I'm also a little intrigued by the solicitation's promise that a classic Avenger is joining the book's cast, as I can't really think of another inactive Avenger right now, who is alive, that would fit the bill of joining the team.

Finally from Marvel — New Avengers #45. Pieces of junk like this are evidence Marvel uses too many tie-ins. The whole issue is basically a "What if...?" story, showing what the Skrulls were up to during that Godawful "House of M" crossover. Please completists, pass on this one if you can quell the sickness we all share.

DC's offering are much more sparse, with the only title of note being Superman #680, a series that BADLY needs to go somewhere fast. For the first three issues of James Robinson's run on the title, Supes has been battling Atlas... and this fourth issue changes things up, only in that KRYPTO joins the fray to relieve Clark for a bit. Yes, we're being saved by a Dog's appearance. Ugh. And I mean Ugh. James Robinson really needs to do better than just hemming and hawing like this. Honestly, Three issues of Clark saying to himself "Something isn't right, why is he stronger than me," is ridiculous. Wrap it up in this issue, please. The good news is, we know the end HAS to be in sight, since the long-awaited Kryptonian crossover with "Action" and "Supergirl" is right on the horizon. Whew!

But apart from the big two publishers, we have possibly the second-most awaited issue of the week, Project Superpowers #6, from Dynamite. This series has been a phenomenal success so far, even if the sales numbers haven't quite show it yet, and this will be the penultimate issue of the first mini-series of this universe (Dynamite has already announced a second mini-series and a few spin-offs). The Fighting Yank was just killed... or shot at least... and the Dynamic Family is still waiting in the wings looking to overtake the Planet again. I strongly recommend those of you who haven't been reading to track down the back-issues of this story, since I'm sure Alex Ross and Jim Kruger have something special planned for the finale.

So yeah, slow week, definitely, but there is still more than enough to keep you occupied for a little while.

Pre-order "Guitar Hero World Tour" at Amoeba

This one's for all of you outside the Poughkeepsie area... far far outside the Poughkeepsie area. One of the stages to be featured in "Guitar Hero World Tour" is Amoeba Music in California.

You can pre-order the game, which will be released on Oct. 26, through Amoeba's Web site, for store pickup only, and get a free Amoeba T-shirt.

Personally, I just think the idea of buying a game at the place you are playing at in the game is pretty darned cool. Purposely wearing the free T-shirt every time you play at that stage, however, isn't cool at all. Don't be that guy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Heroes Report on Season Three Premiere

Watching the enormous "Heroes" premiere night tonight, cover to cover, from the one-hour catch-up show to the first two episodes of the new season, one word came to mind: Haphazard.

It's a word I've always found funny, since that "ph" in the middle should make it sound like "Hafazard," but I digress.

Of course anyone who watched the special features on the Season Two DVD (and if you haven't you should) knows Season Two was bastardized by the Writer's Strike. In stopping the virus from spreading in order to bring closure to the year, nearly every character's storyline was abruptly brought to a close, simply because the events they were all working toward was now non-existent. Consequently, we missed out what seems like a GREAT second half to the year.

And the second consequence of catching the virus was seen tonight: Two hours of watching the writers pull storylines out of their rear as quickly as possible. And as any X-Men comic fan will tell you, the fastest way to do that is to bring someone from the future into the fold. Honestly, as I watching "Future Peter" mess around in the past, sending the characters off onto their merry way for another season of mischief, I felt like I was watching Cable... or Rachel Summers... or Lucas Bishop... The X-Men sure like the future, huh?

Unfortunately, it normally feels convoluted when the X-Men do it, and it felt forced here. Although you have to appreciate the metaphor: The Heroes writers changed one tiny thing, catching the virus, and the repercussions cause EVERY storyline to stop. Future Peter changes one thing, killing Nathan, and a whole lot of bad, unexpected, things result as well. It's like rain on your wedding day.

(Speaking of X-Men... a professor with the agility of a gymnast? A German who manipulates magnetism?)

So, if you were the type of fan wishing for MUCH more action than you saw in Season Two, you were in luck tonight. If you appreciate logic, though, you were plain out of luck. In order to appreciate what was so Haphazardly setup for Season Three, you really have to forget what you were expecting from a lot of characters and forget about some logical applications of powers.

At least I'm hoping its all a result of needing to set up the stories quickly, or else these writers just don't understand the world they've created.

And if you could suspend some of your disbelief, like why Clare didn't just jump through a window with those flimsy shutters to evade Sylar or why a simple EMP would knock out the vaunted "Level Five" or why HRG would think Clare's biological Mom could protect her (and how cheesy was that scene with her?)... where was I? Oh yeah, if you can suspend your disbelief, then some of the storylines setup here are actually pretty good.

For instance, I am very intrigued by Nathan's direction here. Is Linderman really there? Is he crazy? Did Peter heal him? Will we see Rena Sofer this year? All of that has my interest. On a related note, whats the deal with this Tracy played by Ali Larter? Please tell me she's not a twin. Oh God I hope it's not a twin.

I really like what they're doing with Hiro and Ando right now (even if the whole thing with George Takei was way too forced). Not even mentioning the fact that this speedster girl seems a perfect adversary for Hiro (both in powers and personality), Ando has had nothing to do for too long. Having him be a possible turncoat has me intrigued, if only for the tension it creates.

And I am thrilled that it seems Kristen Bell is going to keep a large role for this season, if that show of power at the end was any indication. I am hoping hoping hoping she and HRG teamup. Speaking of which, where was the Haitian? I thought her Daddy issues, especially when placed against the backdrop of the Bennetts, was the best piece of writing from Season Two, so hopefully that could continue if she is HRG's partner, even if Bob is dead.

On the other hand, there was plenty I just hated too, mainly the fact that Momma Petrelli is getting WAY too two-dimensional and Maya... nothing in particular, just Maya.

Oh, and the thing I hated most here was, Sylar takes Clare's powers so quickly here? After two seasons of us watching the Heroes do everything in their power to protect her from Sylar? It happened so fast? Seriously? This may have been the worst written part of the story, in my book.

OK, so without further ado, your favorite part of the Heroes Reports (or at least mine, since I get to be much less organized); RANDOM THOUGHTS:

1) Peter and Sylar needed EVEN MORE power? Kill 'em both already!

2) I like human characters in special worlds... and here Mohinder is turned special and we see Ando may become special... that's why I love me some HRG

3) I am praying they don't go the Rogue "I can't touch people" route with Clare. Then again, logically, she really shouldn't have been able to feel her Dad hug her tonight, right? And she didn't say that she couldn't feel him.

4) Sylar says he can't kill Clare... wouldn't melting her do the trick?

5) So Molly's NOT coming back? What the hell, man? Her and Parkman make the perfect pairing!

6) I like how, even in the Catch-up show, Season Two was getting forgotten as quickly as possible. Distancing yourself a little, NBC?

7) I STILL Think Sylar will turn Good at some point.

8) Does Future Peter have anywhere to go home to?

9) I guess we're just going to forget about the Irish girl trapped in the future?

10) Special powers are in adrenaline? Then how about the characters who use their powers in their sleep? Dumb dumb explanation for the origin of powers, as far as I'm concerned.

Overall, I would say this has been a promising premiere. Obviously, you had to forget riding the logic train to enjoy the episodes, but I have faith in these writers to right the ship now that the storylines have started.

'Heroes' tonight!

Just a reminder, tune in tonight at 8 p.m. for three hours of "Heroes" on NBC, with the season premier and second episode airing back to back at 9 p.m.

Hopefully I'll have a chance to say more about the big night in just a little bit, for now I am wrestling with fixing up a pre-historic PC with virus protection... not the most fun way to spend a day off!

This week's video game release list

PLENTY to play this week, from "Lego Batman" to "Mega Man 9." Check out the full list HERE.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gaming in the Journal on Saturday

I just put the finishing touches on this week's Gaming page (Page 5C in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal Sports section), and its just about as pretty as a black and white page can get.

But more importantly, there is a BUNCH of good content, namely a review of "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed." Now, I didn't play this game myself just yet, the review is by another member of my Gannett Papers family, but I am dying to play it. The only problem is, due to my schedule for this week, and the fact that "Lego Batman" is out next week and plenty of other games soon after, I'm actually not going to have time to play it for a few months, it seems. Sad, I know. Deciding to pass on a game for a few months down the line is the hardest choice us Gamers have to make... at least, us Grownup Gamers. Oh well.

After reading the review, you will also get to read a full story on that study from a few days ago that showed how nearly all kids nowadays play video games. Also, there's a fantasy football column for us fantasy gamers.

That's it, be sure to check out Page 5C in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another 'Lego Batman' villain shown

We're inside of a week away from my own personal most awaited game of the fall, "Lego Batman: The Videogame." And if you thought the cascade of new villains would stop falling onto our screens, you were wrong.

It's Hush! How many villains does this game have?!? And how long is it?!?!? Don't get me wrong, I am even more jazzed about this game now (yes, I am a man and I just used the word "Jazzed"), but I cannot believe how many different lego villains we're going to see. There I was thinking Bane was the most non-classic baddie they were going to bring out. Who's next? King Tut, of 1960's TV fame?

The selection of villains is starting to remind me of those old NES/Genesis Spider-man or X-Men games where every single villain in the heroes' histories play a role. And as cheesy as those were, some of them were pure fanboy fun.

I can only applaud Warner Bros. for their depth and selection of characters, drool over how much sleep I'm going to lose over this game, and hope that it lives up to all my expectations.

'Prince of Persia' dated for December

Gamespot is reporting Ubisoft's "Prince of Persia" will come out this year, before the holiday season, on DECEMBER 2.

Check out THIS LINK for a little more info. Am I the only one who's looking forward this this game to cure the inevitable post "Gears of War II" hangover?

Buy Pile Report

So, my Buy Pile was pretty light this week -- so light in fact that I had to re-read the release board in Upstate Comics four times because I was sure I was forgetting something obvious and important I needed to pickup.

But no, my Buy Pile was a slender five issues this week. One of them was Action Comics #869, which I already detailed in the previous post. There are three other books I need to make mention of, though:

First off, and this is a book I haven't been mentioning much here, but have been reading -- Trinity #16. Dare I say it, this is the issue that has made me sure Kurt Busiek's story will be - gulp - worth reading. The first six or seven issues were take-it-or-leave it fodder. I even had very real fears that Busiek was expanding his story just in order to fill out the 52 issues. But here, in just the 16th issue of the series, we actually get a storyline climax. A Climax! (No Dirty Jokes!) For any of you out there nervous this book would be one long droning on story, worry no longer. We have a plot twist! And I am equally excited that the Trinity's showdown with the Dark Trinity (not to be confused with "Broken Trinity") started last week and sort of finished this week!

And aside from any overall structure worries that have been eased here, the story was also pretty darn good. I find myself really interested to see where Busiek is taking this story, something I could only very rarely say of "Countdown." Folks, we're only four months into the story, there is time to jump on board -- and if you are a fan of any of these Trinity characters, you want to read the book.

Also from DC, Robin #178 failed to disappoint. I'm a big fan of what Fabian Nicieza is doing with the character in this post "Batman R.I.P." world, and he's crafted a solid mystery for the readers to follow and Tim Drake to unravel, from the identity of Red Robin to the gang wars to what Spoiler has planned for her former beau. And while the constant narration from Tim is a bit of an overkill, I would always rather a little overkill when it comes to narration rather than no narration at all. Maybe that's just my early '80s comic background, I dunno. And still, the question in the background of this story is still Who will assume the Cape and Cowl?

Finally, Uncanny X-Men #502. I am losing faith in Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker. The setting of San Francisco is fine. The storyline with the Hellfire Cult, while overly reminiscient for my tastes, is also fine. But for God sakes, every one of these characters are characatures of themselves!!! And I know Ed Brubaker is better than this in terms of getting into a character's voice. Cyclops is bad enough, which I detailed in length last month, but come on, we don't need to hear more about Emma Frost's expensive wardrobe. We don't need Dazzler coming by and offering a beaten girl a spot as a background dancer (who would be giving the crowd narcotics, no less). We don't need to see a flashback of Emma showing her class how to use men, and we really don't need Cyclops torturing a man when he could just get Emma to read his mind for the information he needed.

I haven't read the X-Men written this poorly in years. I mean, sure, they've been often boring lately, but not written this poorly. Back to the drawing board, Marvel!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buy Pile Report: Action Comics

Sometimes a great comic book isn't necessarily a well-written story. I'm sure the fanboys out there and the Geoff Johns haters are going to find plenty to nitpick at Action Comics #869. For one, Superman turns his back on Brainiac way too early. For two, the citizens of Metropolis beat up on Brainiac androids with tables and fire extinguishers, where Kara is having difficulties. For three, Brainiac just sniffs of a super-powered Lex Luthor.

I don't care. This comic just dropped my jaw.

I won't spoil exactly what happens here, but Kara's whole character is suddenly completely different. Yes, I know, the whole 1,000 Kryptonians thing was going to change her anyway, but there is no way she is the same after this. Also, while the battle may be escalating in a predictable manner, that predictable story has always been a great concept. I cannot wait to see how Clark and Kara handle this situation.

Oh, and the art is once again peerless. I never want to read another Superman comic drawn by anyone but Gray Frank. I know I'm going to have to, but I don't want to.

Anyway, this was only the first comic I've read all week, but I'm already naming it the week's best.

Watch the Skrull TV ad

HERE'S THE LINK to the TV ad paid for by the Skrulls that ran last night on ESPN2.

Can you imagine being, like, an 80-year old man who's never read a comic book seeing this ad come on TV? Pacemaker alert!

This week's comic book expectations

It's 3:30 a.m., I'm eating Cookie Crisp from the box, Mountain Dew from the bottle, and I only just got back from Long Island a little bit ago ... and you people still expect me to tell you what to look for on the shelves this week? Selfish!

OK, I'm not in such a bad mood. I actually just found the perfect Christmas gift for someone online (yes, I start early), which I'm pumped about, and I'm listening to the bootleg recording from the July 18th Billy Joel Shea Stadium show, which I am still pumped about two months after. So, I guess I'm up to talking a little comics.

First off, HERE'S YOUR LINK to the week's release list. And actually, the first book on that list is the one I am most excited about this week -- Action Comics #869. Despite the fact that last month we saw Brainiac in action for the first time and his super strength seemed a tad bit generic, Geoff Johns has been weaving a masterpiece of a story arc here, and in the penultimate issue (there's that geek word again), I'm hoping we see Kara score a little payback on the big greenie... even if she's probably going to get her butt kicked harder than her cousin. And if the prospect of a huge Brainiac vs. Kryptonians throwdown doesn't excite you, then hows about that cover?!?

On the other end of the publisher spectrum, Mighty Avengers #18 is the main "Secret Invasion" book of the week. Of course this title and "New Avengers" have been just as important (if not more so) than the main "S.I." book, so if you're interested in learning more about what Nick Fury and his secret warriors have been up to, be sure to pick this book up.

Also of note on the "S.I." scene this week is War Machine: Weapon of SHIELD #33, with Jim Rhodes taking over the title of the book from Tony Stark. On the one hand, I'm thrilled that we're getting rid of one of those Iron Man books, because there was too darn many of them coming out each month. On the other hand, I'd be shocked if a book headlined by Rhodey lasted all too long on today's comic landscape. And more importantly, the emergence of this title is only amping up the speculation that Tony Stark is not making it out of the Invasion alive. Personally, I think he's going to end up a Skrull captive as part of a bargain or something, but really, do we want Tony Stark to die? Hasn't there been a little much of the whole dying thing lately?

I'm very excited for Robin #178 this week, as we're still in the dark as to who this "Red Robin" is, and what role he plays in the new landscape of the Gotham hero scene. And yes, I know I just used "Landscape" in two consecutive paragraphs.

Finally, there are a couple of new titles this week I could really give a damn about (not counting "Marvel Apes #2"). DC Universe Decisions #1 is one of those books. Who is this book for? What audience really is saying to themselves "Wow! I like Politics! I like Heroes! This is awesome!" Honestly, DC, you couldn't have spent these pages on a better mini-series? Age of the Sentry #1 is another book I could care less about. I get it, Marvel, you think you're slick with your "Oh, he was always around, we all just forgot! (wink)" -- well the character has blown pretty hard so far in my opinion, so I don't care to read some secret old story. This whole thing has been done before, and let me tell you, I can't believe I'm saying this but "Triumph" (DC in the early '90s) was a better hero than 1,000-suns boy.

OK, I'm done ranting. Happy reading everyone, I should have time to get to the Buy Pile Report on Wednesday night, so don't go thinking my absence last week is becoming a trend.

Monday, September 15, 2008

This week's video game release list

The hits just keep on coming. This week is a real tour de Force. Sorry for the puns, but check out THIS LINK and see the fireworks for the week.

Not only is "Rock Band 2" out this week, but (more importantly) "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" is out! Geeks, rejoice!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

'Boom Blox' weekend

The girlfriend does not own a Wii. She did, however, fall in love with "Boom Blox" at first sight when playing on someone else's. So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that she went and bought the game for use on my Wii, and I guess I also shouldn't be surprised that I have an IV of Mountain Dew going right now due to playing "Boom Blox" all Saturday night.

So why do I bring this game up? A game that has been out for a few months already and some of you have already heard of? Because not enough people are playing this game! It's fantastic, just as good a "casual gamer" title as you are going to find. Sure, it doesn't involve jumping around the room like some of the other Wii "casual gamer" titles, but this is one polished piece of work, responsive to your movements and a satisfying experience -- something most of those jump-around-the-room titles cannot claim.

At it's heart, the game is a virtual version of "Jenga," with the Wiimote as your hopefully steady hands. There are several many puzzles of different shaped structures to solve, either by yourself or with a teammate, and there are also competitive games to play with up to four players trying to be the one to take out the most blocks before the penalty block on top of the structure falls to the floor. There are also block-shooting mini-games and a create-a-puzzle feature.

This is just as good a party game, or "casual gamer" game as you're going to find.

My personal favorite part is, when you are competing by taking turns taking out the most blocks without letting the structure fall to the ground, you can purposely move a few blocks out of place while taking your own block out, making the whole thing unstable for the next person's turn. Granted, it wasn't the best idea to do that to the GF...

Anyway, this is a game that deserves much more attention than its got, so make time in your gaming schedule to go out and give it a try.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

'NHL 09' review

OK, here's THE LINK to the review of "NHL 09" which ran in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal Gaming page (page 5C).

As you can read, I really enjoyed the game, which wasn't surprising since I knew how strong of a game "NHL 08" was, but I'm still not the biggest hockey fan out there. Heck, I normally would watch roller derby or water polo over hockey. But still even after I am now done reviewing the game, I find myself turning "NHL 09" on instead of my previous obsession "Tiger Woods 09." (Don't worry Tiger, I'm sure I'll be back soon!).

And, as I said in the review, you really do need to try out the online team play. It's the sort of feature I am praying we see in "NBA 09." It might not work so well with "Madden," only because who wants to spend a whole afternoon playing online as an offensive lineman, but for hockey and NBA games, this is revolutionary.

But I digress. Read the review for more. In the meantime, I am five hours away from being done with work, so in five hours and 45 minutes (I've a long commute), I'll be back playing for the Iowa Chops once again.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Whew! It's been a long long time, I know, but now that the Olympics are done and the high school season is well on its way, we can finally have the room in the Poughkeepsie Journal on Saturdays to bring back the weekly Gaming page.

Let me tell you folks, it's been rough the last few weeks, especially since I've had some great content to put in the paper that has had to go online exclusively, like the "Too Human" review and "Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise." But that all ended today when I walked into the office and to my surprise, we had the room for the Gaming page.

So it begins again on Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal on page 5C with a review of "NHL 09." And I won't ruin the review yet, but let me tell you, I'm not even a hockey guy and I have been having a blast reviewing this one.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Good news, better news

If you were wondering where the weekly Buy Pile Report was this week, I apologize. I was so busy playing "NHL 09" last night that I actually didn't make it through my weekly stack yet. That's good news #1 — my scratched up copy of the game works very well, and I will have a full review in the Saturday Gaming page this week.

The second piece of good news is, I just talked to the good people at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and I am now assured that I'll have the resources to provide you good Gaming readers with reviews of not only "Lego Batman The Video Game," but also November's "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe." That's right, the good Warners came through for me and in turn came through for you.

Need a little nugget to whet your taste buds, though? Xbox360Achievements.org found THIS, a full list of the 22 characters involved in "MK vs. DC." One word: DARKSEID.

Anti-life equals loneliness + alienation + fear + despair + self-worth ÷ mockery ÷ condemnation ÷ misunderstanding x guilt x shame x failure x judgment n=y where y=hope and n=folly, love=lies, life=death, self=dark side

What's that? Sorry, I got lost there for a minute... speaking of which, how awesome was "Final Crisis: Revelations #2?!?" I need to write up this Buy Pile Report soon!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Breakfast done right

I just saw this on G4's blog and wanted to share. Hit THIS LINK to see the details, but yes, that is a working Nintendo. I am in Love.

Good news, bad news, "NHL 09"

OK, good news, bad news here.

The good: When I walked into the office today I found a shiny new press copy of "NHL 09" sent to me by EA Sports, just waiting for me to play the hell out of it.

The bad: When I opened the box, the disc was pretty scratched up, after falling out of its holder during shipping.

Until I get home at 12:30 a.m. tonight and put the disc into my Xbox 360, keep your fingers crossed the game is still playable. If so, be ready for a full review of the game in Saturday's Poughkeepsie Journal Gaming page.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

This week's comic book expectations

We have a decent-sized week ahead of us, so click THIS LINK for the whole list.

The biggest book of the week is obviously Secret Invasion #6. And if you haven't even been paying attention to the series, you have to be excited simply for the cover of this book; Captain America (Bucky Barnes), Thor (who was once dead too) and Iron Man. Without even the context of the story, isn't it great to see Marvel's Avenging Trio back together again?

Now, putting the group into the context of the Invasion, this could be the issue where the tide turns in favor of humanity (if ever it does). Thor and Cap are getting involved right at the time Reed Richards (Mr. Deus ex Machina himself) has gotten free and has brought to Earth his Skrull-exposing gun. And for as goofy as that gun sounds, it still means the Earth has a fighting chance now. My big question that I hope gets answered here is, what happened to Queen Skrull? With three issues to go, I would guess she has one last ace up her sleeve.

Then there are the many weekly "Secret Invasion" tie-ins for the week, including Ms. Marvel #30, Secret Invasion Young Avengers/Runaways #3 and Secret Invasion X-Men #2. The only tie-in worth more than a passing interest, though, is Secret Invasion Inhumans #2. The Invasion has come in full force to Attilan, and the Skrulls are even more bold with giving away their secrets here, as Gorgon learned last issue. The main story of interest here is still Black Bolt's story. We know he is in the Skrulls' possession, we know they want to use him as the ultimate weapon, so will Medusa find him in time? If Bendis had given the Inhumans any love whatsoever in the main book, I would think this tie-in would have major implications. Instead, it just seems a good story.

And did I mention Deadpool #1 takes place with a "Secret Invasion" backdrop? If there's anyone who can make sense of the Skrulls' plans, its Deadpool.

And what of Deadpool's former partner? Cable King-Sized Spectacular #1 promises to tell Bishop's side of the story, which I've been looking forward to. So far the various X-writers have really not done a good job painting Bishop's Morality, as far as I'm concerned. Cable has always been the good guy of the story. Hopefully, if this issue is well done, we will start to feel that moral ambiguity we're supposed to be feeling from this story.

From DC, I've no doubt Final Crisis: Revelations #2 will continue the excitement established in the debut issue. You remember the issue, right? When the Spectre melted Dr. Light, took on Libra and went after the Question? Well, my question for the Question is still what the heck did she do to deserve the Spectre's wraith? Or is he just taking out his frustrations the Libra somehow is immune to his holy powers? And who is Libra Anyway?!? I was floored by issue #1, and this second issue is the first thing I read this week.

Booster Gold #12 is also out this week, the second issue of Chuck Dixon's two-part Bat-centric tale. While Dixon's simply a fill-in writer so you shouldn't expect anything ground-breaking to result from this story, the first part was pretty fun, featuring Booster dressing up as D-list Bat villain Killer Moth and kicking Bruce's tale a little too well, screwing with history. Expect an equally goofy conclusion.

Finally, last issue, the Green Lantern Corps. got caught in a bad rainstorm... of the body parts of family members. So, in Green Lantern Corps. #28, expect to see a whole lot of angry ring-slingers hunting down the people who caused eyeballs to fall from the sky. In fact, may some of these lanterns be switching colors soon?

OK, that does it for this week, enjoy Wednesday.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This week's video game releases

CLICK HERE for the video game release list for the week.

Take note: There's a "Price is Right" game coming out on Tuesday, for the Wii, DS, and PC. Even better, PLINKO is included. Who's Coming with me?!?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rumor Mill: Maguire, Raimi back for 'Spidey' 4 and 5

Follow THIS LINK to the rumor that Sony has locked up Spider-man himself, Tobey Maguire, and director Sam Raimi to come back for "Spider-man" 4 and 5, which could potentially be shot back to back.

Now, I know many of you had MAJOR problems with "Spider-man 3." I had just as many problems as all of you combined, just look at my long-winded review of the movie at THIS LINK.

But, I am thrilled this duo is back and Sony is going to keep the franchise going, because I firmly believe in order for Raimi to come back, Sony had to promise to keep their nose out of his business and let him tell the story he wanted to.

There were studio fingerprints all over "Spidey 3," from shoe-horning venom in to changing Sandman's story to that RIDICULOUS dance sequence. Hopefully, this time around Raimi will get to tell his own tales, and hopefully include The Lizard, a villain Raimi had been building to since the first movie.

Spider-man films don't have to keep getting bigger and more convoluted. Peter can keep on fighting singular villains and the movies will be strong. Hopefully Raimi and Maguire bring that back to the franchise.

Oh, and hopefully this rumor is right.

EA, ESPN launches 'Virtual Playbook'

You know, I read this whole press release and still I think this is the sort of thing you have to see when it debuts on Sunday to understand. Personally, it seems to me that ESPN is going to create play scenarios with "Madden NFL 09" and then dissect them, while talking to the virtual players... which just sounds nutty to me.

Here's the whole press release, see if you can make sense of it:

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and BRISTOL, Conn. – Sept. 5, 2008 – EA SPORTS™ and ESPN are advancing media convergence and delivering a new enhancement to in-studio sports analysis with the debut of EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook, on ESPN’s award-winning NFL programs. The new television technology, developed jointly by EA SPORTS and ESPN, delivers an “augmented reality” that allows ESPN’s football analysts to interact with the virtual players from EA SPORTS video games and provide insight, education and analysis to fans about key football plays and techniques. EA SPORTS is a Label of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS).

The two companies announced the launch of EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook today, and it will be integrated into ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown and NFL Live shows. It will make its debut on the September 7th Sunday NFL Countdown and will be integrated into Monday NFL Countdown and NFL Live throughout the 2008 season. It may also be used at times in other ESPN television programs including SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and First Take.

“EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook is born out of our deep football heritage at EA SPORTS and our drive to expand the impact of our innovative sports technologies beyond gaming,” said Peter Moore, president of EA SPORTS. “Telecast on ESPN, EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook marks the future of sports production by allowing television analysts to highlight, critique and dissect on-field action more intimately than ever before. EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook brings an entirely new level of excitement and realism to football analysis to ESPN viewers this NFL season.”

John Skipper, executive vice president, content, ESPN, said, “ESPN’s technology, production and content teams have a long heritage of developing and implementing game-changing enhancements that have advanced the way fans engage with sports on television. With EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook we’ve been able to integrate EA’s game technologies and assets into our studio programs like never before. It will again move the industry forward, while further connecting two media worlds important to fans.”

Developed jointly by EA SPORTS Technology Licensing Group and ESPN’s Emerging Technology group, EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook merges the depth and realism of EA SPORTS industry-leading graphics with the award-winning production, personalities and analysis of ESPN’s programming. As fans tune into ESPN’s NFL studio programming they’ll find ESPN’s commentators providing pre-game analysis of week one match-ups as if the teams’ lineups were playing on the set – demonstrating defensive schemes, receiver sets or other scenarios with realistic players generated by EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook.

How EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook Works

EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook is created using feeds from in-studio real-world cameras as well as an in-game camera that captures EA SPORTS in-game graphics depicting real game scenarios. The real-world studio and game images of virtual characters are combined to create the effect of “augmented reality” -- virtual players appearing in the studio alongside real life hosts and analysts. Both real and virtual people are able to move realistically around the studio set to demonstrate plays and scenarios. The system accommodates, and in fact is controlled by, the multiple real-world cameras that are typical in today’s sports analysis television programs.

For the 2008 NFL season, commentators on ESPN’s Sunday Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, NFL Live and other programs will use the EA SPORTS Virtual Playbook to analyze game matchups, demonstrate offensive and defensive schemes, and even highlight mismatches as if the players were alongside them in the studio.

In 2005, ESPN and Electronic Arts announced a 15-year integrated content and marketing agreement for ESPN media and personalities and EA SPORTS games that includes ESPN content integrated into multiple EA SPORTS titles and EA SPORTS content appearing across ESPN media platforms.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This week's comic expectations

Well, it finally happened. A slow comic book day. And while I love a good comic as much as anyone, frankly my wallet can use this break after buying 9-11 books a week for what feels like the last two months straight.

Even as slow as it is, though, there are still a few books worth keeping an eye on.

The biggest book of the week is Green Lantern #34, the penultimate chapter (is there any geekier a word lately than penultimate?) of Geoff Johns' "Secret Origins" arc. Of course, at this point the "Origin" story is full-fledged spilling over into the upcoming "Blackest Night" crossover. If you've been avoiding this arc so far, due to the seeming inconsequential story title, this is the issue you want to jump back on board, since Hal Jordan and Sinestro are about to track down the someday Red Lantern King himself, Atrocitus. You can be sure we're going to get plenty of backstory knowledge in this one.

Also from DC is Detective Comics #848. While I would never call this arc necessary reading in the least for the "Batman R.I.P." story, this "tie-in" has been pretty strong on its own so far, with Hush making his own move against the Caped Crusader. You have to give Paul Dini credit for still telling a compelling Batman tale even amidst all the "R.I.P" hysteria.

Another "R.I.P." "tie-in" this week (and I again use the term loosely) is Nightwing #148, which features Dick dealing with a gunshot wound and big problems with Harvey Dent. This series has clearly been the weakest of the three tie-in series, but it's still been a pretty interesting read.

Also, don't forget that DC and Gail Simone are relaunching a series this week with Secret Six #1.

Next, we have a couple of Stephen King books, Dark Tower: Treachery #1 and The Stand: Captain Trips #1. Personally, I loved "The Stand" back when it was in book form, so I'm curious to see how the content transfers over to the comic form. And the "Dark Town" series has just been consistently strong, so both of these first issues may be worth your time and money if you like the previous Stephen King work.

The Children of the Atom carry the week for Marvel, with the X-Men's Manifest Destiny #1 and X-Men: Return of Magik. While the former begins a short mini-series supposedly incapsulating the new X-Men movement of "Manifest Destiny," I've yet to see any evidence that this mini is worth the attention. The book will focus on Bobby Drake's problems, and while I do appreciate Ice Man, I really feel like Marvel simply thought up a good Ice Man story and wanted it to get better sales than it otherwise would, so they slapped the "Destiny" banner across the front. If you don't love Bobby Drake, don't bother here.

On the other hand, Illyana Rasputin's return to the 616 world may be a huge moment in X-Men lore. Personally, I think the original Illyana, who starred in "New Mutants" was one of the greatest characters and story arcs of all time, from her descent into the depths of limbo to her eventual redemption in "Inferno." Likewise, her later death as a toddler in "X-Men #303," a victim of the Legacy Virus, was one of the most touching and meaningful deaths in the history of comic books. I darn near cried while reading Jubilee's narration, as written by Scott Lobdell.

What I'm basically saying is, if this return doesn't feel authentic, realistic and meaningful in it's own right, creating a great story, then I am going to be one mad fanboy. I'm fine with resurrections, but only when it will create a good story, not simply a rehash of what's been done better before.

Speaking of Milking a Franchise, be warned, Sub-Mariner: Depths #1 is NOT a sequel from the fantastic Namor mini-series of last year. This is more in the style of the recent "Captain America: The Chosen." In other words, you probably don't want to waste your money getting a sea captain's point of view on Atlantis.

Finally, Marvel Apes #1. If any of you out this buys this book, thus encouraging Marvel to put out more of this sort of crap, I'll be on you like white on rice. For God sakes, this book is probably going to beat "Final Crisis" in sales.

THURSDAY'S Comic Release list

That's right folks, no new comic books today, but HERE is the list of what's new on the shelves THURSDAY.